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06 May 2020

Fisherfolk advocate arrested for challenging lockdown ban

Thobele Nzama (Southlands Sun) Picture: Co-ordinator of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), Desmond D'sa, has condemned the arrest of the chairperson of the KZN Subsistence Fisherfolk Forum (KZNSFF), Riaz Khan. D'sa is seen at protest held prior to the lockdown.

The co-ordinator of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), Desmond D’sa, has condemned the arrest of the chairperson of the KZN Subsistence Fisherfolk Forum (KZNSFF), Riaz Khan. According to D’sa, the arrest was unlawful as Khan was trying to help Durban-based subsistence fishermen to obtain permission to fish during lockdown.

“The 12 000 subsistence fishermen have been isolated and not allowed to fish for a livelihood to put food on the table in their homes,” he said.

The KZNSFF is an affiliate to the SDCEA which dismissed all claims that the fishermen’s organisation is fake.

SDCEA’s oil and gas project officer, Sherelee Odayar, criticised the manner in which authorities handled Khan’s arrest and said it made him seem like a criminal to onlookers.

“There were five vehicles that came to his home and caused turmoil on the road, attracting onlookers. The police took him in front of his family to Amanzimtoti Police Station for interrogation. They did not lay charges but took his laptop for further investigation.  A representative of eThekwini Municipality and his army of enforcers including Metro Police, went after one fisherman and others who are poor and hungry,” she said.

Odayar said the KZNSFF were in possession documents from the provincial Department of Environmental Fisheries and Forestries (DEFF) which were examined by the local police and eThekwini Inner South Cluster and therefore trusted its legality.

“Communication was made with Thanduxolo Tshangase from DEFF KZN regarding the permits and were advised that they would suffice for the subsistence fishermen to fish during lockdown and that no one could interfere with them when they fish. It then went further to explain that according to the eThekwini representative, fishermen will require a vehicle disc displaying which areas they can fish in.”

“He then said that he is not aware of this. There seemed to be a communication breakdown between the DEFF and the departmental heads because the authentic documents that came from DEFF gave subsistence fishermen a right to fish, as rod and reel fishing is classified as essential fishing to earn an income.”

“If DEFF knew that we were not one of their co-operatives, then they should not have sent the permits. The questions that were posed to them by the metro rescue was misleading and very technical in that it was in their benefit,” she said.

Odayar added that KZNSFF objected  to the co-operatives in 2016 because it only allowed subsistence fishermen to fish in designated areas and since fish migrate, it was not feasible. And added that the KZNSFF stands for the poorest of the poor.

“It is important to note that these fisherfolks fish for a living and do not have any other source of income but KZN subsistence fishing forum issued hampers to these fisherfolks through the umbrella of the South Durban Community EA during lockdown to sustain themselves. It is sad to see that a person who is trying to help society in these trying times gets treated like a criminal, in the period where the president has encouraged us to practice the spirit of ubuntu,” she said.

A comment from the Metro Police was not forthcoming at the time of publication.