Fishy business

Jacques Baartman, Rocklands

In South Africa our former politically oppressed and exploited majority have achieved a profound sense of political victory next to none.

We, however, remain economically impoverished and need to make the necessary changes in our lives, without compromise.

As a country, we have missed the window of opportunity and now need to bring together all South Africans to build a stable and shared future, based on the needs of the people as the majority of them are living in poverty, uncertain where their next meal is coming from.

It is already more than 20 years since transformation and black economic processes started in 1994 and time for us to acknowledge that the expected results has been disappointing, a huge failure, in fact. It is time to reassess what went wrong during this period.

Pre-1994, during the negotiation period when the National Party was in power, they were down but maintained their cunning tactics and managed to force the ANC into a situation of compromise.

In this context, the post-apartheid era is in important aspects, as immoral and inhumane as the apartheid era itself, if not more so. The white elite and white corporations were given the privilege of transferring all the wealth they had accumulated in the apartheid era, including the part they accumulated undeservedly, almost intact to the new South Africa.

It is a gross injustice that most of them have enriched themselves, albeit , quite handsomely over the past 20 years, while the attitude of many whites still remains conspicuously indifferent to the plight of the impoverished majority.

Post 1994 one of the most perturbing aspects, and adding insult to injury, is the adoption of a certain segment of the new black elite who betrayed the principles of our freedom struggle by using their power and influence with a get-rich quick mentality. It defies morality that they are allowing these white companies to swallow them up as board members and shareholders.

Most of the things that went wrong during the transformation can be directly related to the elite compromise/ conspiracy. A case in point at the moment where a white privileged few have ganged up against a black disadvantaged majority and fighting to stay in control of our fishing resources that belong to the people of South Africa is in the Cape Town High Court (“Interdict puts hold on fishing rights”, Plainsman January 11).

As matter of public information and record, Viking Fishing, Sea Harvest, Lusitania and Irvin & Johnson are four of South Africa’s biggest white-controlled fishing companies who have unduly benefited from apartheid privileges.

Viking Fishing is also the company that is taking the minister to court to stop him from granting fishing quotas to 12 black companies as part of his department’s policy to transform the industry so that more people can benefit in the hake trawl and sole sector, which has been controlled by these big companies.

It is these South African-based companies who have been challenging the minister in court for the past 20 years on policies of transformation and black economic empowerment.

Ironically, while Viking wants to stop our people from catching our very own fish, they allow a foreign national company, Pasconova Fishing, from Spain, to catch our fish and sell it to international companies.

Established in 1980, the Viking fishing group of companies operates a large fleet of fishing vessels, three sea food factories and a number of fish farms across Southern Africa. They also specialise in the prawn trawl, deep sea trawl and aquaculture sectors. Viking has catching rights agreements in sectors such as lobster, abalone, seaweed and hake handline.

However, this fishing empire have very little regard for transformation in the industry and its claim of 32% compliance in terms of black economic empowerment is nothing more than window-dressing and used for public relations purposes.

To add insult to injury, judge Lee Bozalek, in granting Viking an interdict comes across as the mouth-piece for white monopoly capital and protecting apartheid-gained privileges and practices. What is even more worrying is that civil rights groups have been conspicuously silent on the ruling of the court and the irreparable damage it will cause, as many small companies may be forced to close its doors.

This interdict is unlawful in terms of the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary where the court is interfering with the work of the minister. The tens of thousands of people who directly or indirectly work in the small scale fishing sector are of great importance to the national economy. The sector must be transformed so that these important aspects are used to the maximum benefits of small scale fishing communities.

This transformation requires that small scale fishing regain their access to traditional fishing areas, are provided with appropriate support and given opportunities to work within an enabling environment.

We must therefore not allow white minority and a few elite blacks to dictate to us the terms and conditions of black economic empowerment and transformation. Under the circumstances it would only be appropriate to call on our communities to make Viking Fishing understand we are serious about equitable distribution of our fishing resources and wealth.