Fishers fight for rights to get paid

Michael Baartman

A group of Hout Bay fishers falling under the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) interim relief policy wants the local caretaker of the policy removed from his position.

The fishers claim they have not been paid by Ikram “Lamie” Halim, and that the interim relief policy has been grossly exploited.

There are 97 Hout Bay fishers who hold interim-relief status.

This status was bestowed on small-scale fishers in 2007, granting them short-term permits of between four and eight months. It was meant to be a temporary solution for fishers who did not benefit
from long-term rights established by the government.

Michael Baartman, who represents a group of 11 fishers, said “things have gone from bad to worse” since Mr Halim was appointed interim-relief caretaker four years ago.

“We are sitting with deceased people whose money is still owned to their families,” he

“The problem is with the caretaker. This season, some of our fishers caught 295kg of fish at Gordon’s Bay to sell in Hout Bay. However, the local fish factory didn’t want them because the fish weren’t taken care of.”

Mr Baartman said this fish was then sold in the community, but the fishers never received any money in return.

“This fish was still taken off the fishers’ allowable catch, but they didn’t receive any money. But where did the money go?”

Mr Baartman said that last week DAFF officials arrived in Hout Bay Harbour to question the caretaker about the allegations.

“About 20 fishers went there when the officials were there, and Ikram told them in the presence of the police and the officials that they would be
paid. Why is he promising to pay the money back if he claims he doesn’t know where the money

The situation, he said, was causing “deep divisions” within the community.

“DAFF is actually the main culprit. They come into a community, put measures in place and then they go, not making sure the processes are being effectively carried out.”

However, Mr Halim said he could explain what happened with the 295kg.

“The truck picking up the fish in Gordon’s Bay left too early, just after noon on January 17. It was only supposed to leave at 3pm. So we went to pick it up ourselves,” he said.

“The fisheries inspector signed off on it, but when we got to Hout Bay we were told the factory couldn’t take the fish because it was no good. I then ordered that the fish be dumped, and I went

“I decided I would also take up the matter with DAFF. Unfortunately the department told me they could not cancel the slips (recording catches). I then heard rumours that this fish wasn’t dumped but was sold off.”

He was aware fishers were making allegations against him.

“Four years ago, when the communal fishing permit came out, I wasn’t even nominated as caretaker. It was the department that made me caretaker. Two years ago, there was a vote for a new caretaker, but a quorum was achieved and I was retained as caretaker. I am trying to sort out these issues, but with all these allegations against me, I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.”

Mr Baartman and his group is now forming a committee to “get rid of the caretaker” so that a new representative can be chosen for the fishing community.

On Tuesday March 20, he chaired a meeting of about 20 fishers at Sentinel Primary School to discuss the way forward.

“We don’t want another season of this. We need to get our money and we need to be paid on time,” he told the audience.

He said a new committee was needed to represent the entire Hout Bay fishing community, and he proposed that two representatives from each of
the three local fishing organisations sit on the panel.

The fishers were also urged to begin the pro-
cess of establishing fishing co-operatives, as DAFF was beginning to roll out the much-awaited
small-scale fishing policy in other parts of the country.

However, audience members expressed reservations, saying that existing co-ops hadn’t received a single dividend in the past five years.

Mr Baartman asked co-op members who hadn’t received owed monies, as well as families of deceased fishers in a similar predicament, to leave their names with him and he would take up their grievances.

Fisher Michelle Yon, who has been meeting with DAFF, also warned the fishers that they should not expect the small-scale policy to be rolled out in the Western Cape in the short term but rather should brace themselves for at least another season under the interim-relief policy.

There were also concerns that unless fishers signed with what DAFF deemed a “successful co-operative”, they could not be part of the small-scale policy.

This policy is aimed at securing income for poor fishing communities through the establishment of community co-operatives. However, there has been wrangling over the final lists of small-scale beneficiaries.

DAFF spokesperson, Merle van Diemel, did
not respond to queries sent by the Sentinel on Tuesday.