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Benjamin, Saranel (2004) Photos from the Fishermans Protest Durban 24
November.  : -.


No Fish, No Living!”; “No Fish, No Rent!”. These were the impassioned pleas from over 200 fishermen who gathered at Speakers’ Corner in Durban on 24 November 2004. They were protesting against the closure of the South Beach Pier. This was the first time that subsistence fishermen had organised against the war being waged against them. It had taken them a month to organise themselves into a formidable group of communities that are willing to take on government and the multinationals they claim government is protecting. The fishermen, with the help of activist Des D’Sar organised a protest march from Speakers’ Corner to Metro Rail to protest the closure of the South Beach Pier.

The mood of the march was emotional and exuberant at the same time. For many of the fishermen gathered there, the closure of this Pier is akin to a knife in the heart. Impassioned discussions were held as we marched together under the hot Durban sun. They told me that South Beach Pier is one of the best fishing spots all along the Kwazulu-Natal coast. If they lose this spot they will lose their livelihood. If they lose their livelihood then why bother to live?

Mr. H. Singh from Crossmoor is 69 years old. He has been fishing since he was eight, making it 61 years of fishing on the Durban coastline. He sells his fish locally at the Bangladesh market in Chatsworth and on average makes about R140 per day. He says he is one of the lucky few as he gets a pension of R740 and he tops this up with sales from the fish he catches. He says that other younger fishermen are not that lucky. They are unemployed and fish to survive. They have no access to any form of social security. Mr. Singh “thanks God” that he was able to take care of his children and that they are all grown up. He still has a disabled son to take care of. His son accompanies him on his fishing trips.

Prior to South Beach pier closure, the North Beach Pier was closed off to fishermen when it was privatised and that area of North Beach was targeted for tourism development. Although a new and extended North Beach Pier is being built there are no signs from the owners of the North Beach Pier or the government that the pier will be open to fishermen. Just after that closure the Point fishing area was closed off with no consultation from the local government with the fishermen. The area was closed to expand the entrance to the port. Still to come are the closures of beaches on the Bluff and Merebank to fishermen. The fishermen cannot fish off Vetchies Pier, not because of the multimillion Rand Ushaka Marine World but because the reef at that Pier will make it impossible for fishermen on foot to fish there.

I asked Des D’sar why the closures of piers to fishermen were taking place. He says that the South Beach Pier closure was due to SAPREF’s presence in that area. The refineries in that area want control of that space with no outside interference. Included in this list of people and institutions who stand to gain from ousting the fishermen are the Department of Trade and Industry, The National Ports Authority, the Tourism Sector and the huge fishing multinational corporations.

Much of the closures thus far including North Beach, Vetchies and the forthcoming closures on Bluff and Merebank are all as a result of tourism. Fishermen are seen and treated by local government in the same way that street children are : a nuisance, a hindrance to profit, an eyesore. Hence they are accorded the treatment equivalent of a pest. They are swept away, closed off, alienated, pushed to the periphery. Many of the fishermen at the protest were asking how they were supposed to survive if fishing was their only means of survival: what will happen to them if they cannot fish anymore?

The fishing industry has on an international scale become one of the largest profit makers under globalisation. Gaining access to third world waters and through their rampant fishing tactics that see them rape and pillage the sea has seen this industry grow to become a multi-billion dollar profit maker. The cost, however, to all the third world countries is the decimation of the subsistence farmer and the imbalance in the numbers of fish available for world consumption.

Des D’Sar, and many of the fishermen from Kwazulu-Natal Subsistence Fishermen are adamant that they have had enough. Many feel they have been dealt a great blow. They suffered under apartheid and were denied access to beaches such as the North and South Beaches which are the best fishing spots on the coast only to suffer another forced removal only this time its in a democracy, a democracy they feel they fought equally hard for. They are organising themselves and are resilient of the fact that they will not take this closure lying down.

These are not fishermen who pull out a thousand fish a day. They take from the sea only that which they need to survive for the day: enough fish to sell at the local markets so they can put food on the table. Most of the fishermen at the march cannot understand why they are such a threat to government or to private fishing industries when what they take out is such a small percentage of the sea’s resources that it can go unnoticed.

As their banners scream out at the injustices, and with tears rolling down their cheeks as they marched under the Durban sun, old and young together with the generations before them, they have made their first mark on Durban. The Fishermen revolt! Aluta Continua

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