Amid a raging Covid-19 pandemic, SAMSA and Absa Bank collaborate to bring relief to poverty stricken subsistence fishermen.

Pretoria: 31 December 2020

Year 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as having been the hardest year for most people, due largely to the spate and still ongoing ravages of the coronavirus SARS-2 (Covid-190) pandemic currently gripping the world since its outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

The hardship for communities already steeped in poverty compounded by among other things, low rates of education and high rates of unemployment, has become more pronounced by the introduction of national lockdowns by Governments, in an attempt to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 infections.

In South Africa, among such communities are those of rural coastal regions made up of the country’s four provinces bordering its 3 200 kilometre coastline, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west through to the Indian Ocean in the east, and who irk support for their daily living through subsistence fishing.

Touched by the plight of specifically these rural coastal communities, and in a positive response to a Government call for support, in September 2020, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in collaboration with commercial bank, Absa and with assistance by the Moses Kotane Institute, launched a corporate social investment project intended to extend support to these communities in three of the coastal provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.

Its aim, according to SAMSA, would be to bring about relief in two practical ways; firstly a once-off supply of food parcels to households in the three provinces, as well as training in basic maritime skills (mainly fishing related) as well as basic business management and entrepreunerial skills for subsistence fishermen including unemployed youths. Focus of the latter would primarily be on communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, with Northern Cape scheduled for the near future.

“This intervention was conceptualised to cover identified small-scale fishing communities in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal, with a plan to expand the project to other provinces beyond COVID-19. The project will focus on 47 cooperatives in Port St. Johns and Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape, as well as 48 community cooperatives in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Rural fishermen on the banks of the Orange River pictured earlier in December 2020

“Through the training intervention, SAMSA commits to ensuring safety awareness at sea and capacitating the coastal fishing community / fishermen through sustainable interventions that will assist them in their career and business endeavours,” said SAMSA in a statement.

On precisely the choice of these particular communities in the specific areas, SAMSA explained: “South Africa has a long history of coastal communities utilising marine resources for various purposes. Many of these communities and fishers have been marginalised through apartheid practices and previous fisheries management systems. In 2007, the government was compelled through an equality court ruling to redress the inequalities suffered by these traditional fishers. The Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal are some of the previously marginalised provinces, hence their choice as the first two provinces to be targeted by this intervention.”

Jointly funded by SAMSA and Absa to the tune of R3-million, the roll-out of the programme kicked off on the second last week of October – with food distribution occurring parallel the start of the fishermen’s skills development.

Food parcel distribution for 595 people first took place in the Eastern Cape region comprising the Alfred Nzo and King Dalindyebo Municipalities (Mbizana & Coffee Bay), following to which was Ray Nkonyeni Municipality in southern KwaZulu-Natal (500 people) and thereafter, communities in the Dawid Kruiper Municipality on the banks of the Orange River, in Upington, Northern Cape.

In the videos below, we reflect on this food distribution project in Northern Cape, where the event was also attended and addressed by SAMSA’s acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, accompanied by SAMSA’s head of Corporate Affairs and Government Relations, Mr Vusi September.

End

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