Freedom Day – Small-Scale Fishing Communities Held Pickets Against Karpowership Developments
On Freedom Day, small-scale fishing communities in the West Coast and in Gqeberha held pickets to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with developments in the Karpowership saga, while fishers from Port St. John’s Eastern Cape demonstrated their love for the ocean with a clean-up. Small-scale fishers in the West Coast say they are frustrated at seeing the powership vessel in Saldanha
harbour because according to them, proper processes had not been followed. Many are dissatisfied with the “half-baked consultations” which did not include specialist studies about the potential consequences of the underwater noise that will be generated by the ships and the subsequent impacts on the environment and marine resources of Saldanha Bay.
Natalie-Jane van Wyk (a young fisher woman) from the West Coast says, “We feel that we do not have our freedom of choice. The karpowership has just docked in our harbour, even though we do not want them here. These ships will affect our fish and marine ecosystems, thereby affecting our livelihoods. We depend on a healthy ocean and marine environment for our livelihoods. “
Another West Coast fisher woman Carmelita Mostert says, “Small-scale fishers in the West Coast are angry that a Karpowership has recently docked in Saldanha harbour, especially since we have had no meetings with Karpowerships, nor have we participated in any related environmental impact assessments (EIA). Yet here they are. This is not right. We should get a say in this matter. This project is supposed to last for twenty (20) years. What will be the potential consequences for the bay and its people, over this period?”
In Port St. John’s Eastern Cape, small-scale fishers did a beach clean-up to send a clear message to decision-makers that they value the ocean because it sustains their livelihoods and those of their communities. According to small-scale fishers Ntsindiso Nongcavu and Nandipha Nogwina, while they may not be directly affected by Karpower, they opposed offshore oil and gas projects, which threatens the wellbeing of the ocean and also that of coastal communities. They say, “How can we celebrate Freedom Month when our own government is selling our ocean to foreign companies to drill for oil and gas? And they do so, without even consulting the people.”
Vuyiseka Mani and Bulelwa Zikizela from Gqeberha say they will never enjoy Freedom Day until fisher communities are free, and their voices are being heard. Mani, who works with the Eastern Cape Environmental Network (ECEN), says, “It is very disappointing that almost 30 years into our democracy, we are still fighting for our human rights and for our voices to be heard. We do not have the freedom of participation in decision-making we thought we would around environmental justice issues. We want government and the Karpowership companies to consult us on this issue because without meaningful consultation with those who will be affected, our rights will continue to be violated.”
Zikizela, who is with West Massa Movement (which is part of ECEN) in Joe Slovo in Gqeberha, says, “After 28 years into democracy, it is concerning that even though the masses have been opposing this Karpowership development, the government still pushes on to continue with this project, even going so far as to say that this is sustainable development. This is not true. We are saying “NO!” to Karpowerships and “NO!” to any form of fossil fuels as this remains harmfulto the environment and the livelihoods of small-scale fishers. And furthermore, we are in a climate emergency.“