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Partner News: Frustrated and Under-Threat Small-Scale Fishers Pen Scathing Open Letter to Ministers of Energy and Environment

Partner News: Frustrated and Under-Threat Small-Scale Fishers Pen Scathing Open Letter to Ministers of Energy and Environment

On 14 December 2021, in the run-up to the court hearings in the second interdict (heard on 17 December) brought against Shell to stop its planned seismic survey off the Wild Coast, communities responded in strength and unity to Minister Mantashe’s disparaging statements regarding the overwhelming public pushback. Green Connection Legacy graduate Ntsindiso Nongcavu from Port St John’s says, “We categorically reject Minister Mantashe’s attempt to divide the powerful opposition, which continues to build, against mining oil and gas in our oceans.”

Wild Coastfishing communities of Dwesa-Cwebe, Port St John’s and Amadiba (in the Eastern Cape) have written a scathing open letter to Minister Mantashe following his statements last week – which communities found both insulting and misleading – when he claimed that the people protesting against Shell’s seismic survey off the Wild Coast have an “apartheid and colonial” agenda. The letter also addresses Minister for Environment Barbara Creecy.

Ntsindiso Nongcavu from Port St John’s, a leader of one of the many small-scale fishing communities along this coast that has fishing rights says, “Minister Mantashe insults us when he implies that the fight to protect our oceans, our source of livelihood, from corporations like Shell is only the struggle of white environmentalists. This is all of our struggle. The sea is our Great Home. It is the source of all life and is a sacred place, as it is the home of many of our Ancestors. We are angry that he dare question our beliefs and our choices, and how he is trying to make it seem as though we cannot think for ourselves” 

Ntsindiso Nongcavu with fisherfolks from Masifundise

The fishing communities are also angry that they were not consulted about the survey,

The Dwesa-Cwebe CPA asks “We would like to ask Minister Mantashe why his Department did not bother to make sure that Impact and SHELL consulted us? Does he care so little about our children’s lives and our livelihoods? We believe that Minister Mantashe has neglected his duty of care towards us and our communities when he did not ensure that we were consulted and since he did not check that what Shell was planning to do would not cause harm to the fish we depend on to feed our families and make a living.”

These communities know that they will not be the beneficiaries of any economic gains made from oil and gas extraction and demand to know from Minister Mantashe: “Are you aware that Oil and Gas mining does not create jobs for ordinary, poor rural coastal communities who have been marginalized, not just through colonialism and apartheid but are now being marginalized by our own so-called democratic government through Operation Phakisa?”

We are fed up with not being listened to, for so many years. Did you listen to what we said in 2016 when the Portfolio Committee on Environment came to ask us if we wanted the Marine Spatial Planning Bill? Did you take us seriously? Do you not realise that oil and gas exploration and extraction will not only damage marine ecosystems but will also intensify the climate crisis? Do you realise that we will be the ones who suffer when there is no more fish in the sea?”

Therefore, the fishing communities call on ministers Mantashe and Creecy to do their work of protecting and ensuring equitable use of natural resources that should be there for the benefit of all South Africans. 

Ntsindiso Nongcavu says, “We believe that both Minister Mantashe and Minister Creecy have a responsibility, as Trustees of our oceans and coasts and our fish, to protect them.  Seismic testing will impact our fish and other marine life and will affect the ecosystems they need to flourish. Continuing to exploit our oceans will increase our carbon emissions (thereby exacerbating climate change) and take our country into extreme poverty and hunger. All the while, only a few will enjoy the wealth. We want wellbeing for all – not wealth for a few! We categorically reject Minister Mantashe’s attempt to divide the powerful opposition, which continues to build, against mining oil and gas in our oceans.”

“Minister Mantashe, we reject your simplistic dismissal of the resistance to Shell completely. In fact, we are not only resisting Shell but we are saying that we – as Black, African fishers and ordinary South Africans – have the RIGHT TO SAY NO TO MINING. This fight for communities to have a say in and determine what developments go ahead in their areas, is something we are seeing all over the country. For instance, in Limpopo Province communities are fighting against harmful coal projects that pollute the air they breathe and destroys the environment. However, we rely on the African Charter on Human Rights which gives us the right to choose our own path of development and to do what we believe is best with our natural resources,” says Nonhle Mbuthuma, spokesperson for Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC).

Links to the open letter:

·         [English] https://www.masifundise.org/media-statement-an-open-letter-from-under-threat-small-scale-fishers-to-the-ministers-of-mineral-resources-and-energy-and-forestry-fishing-and-environment/

·         [isiZulu] https://www.masifundise.org/media-statement-incwadi-evulelekile-eya-kungqongqoshe-wezokumbiwa-phansi-nezamandla-ezamahlathi-ezokudoba-nezemvelo-evela-kubadobi-abadobela-ukuziphilisa-abasengozini/

·         [isiXhosa] https://www.masifundise.org/malunga-neleta-evulekileyo-evela-kubalobi-abasakhasayo-abasesichengeni-eya-kupphathiswa-wemithombo-yezimbiwa-namandla-kunye-namahlathi-kunye-nowezoloba-nokusingqongileyo

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