FOSAF welcomes the excellent news that the Constitutional Court has refused the Minister of Environmental Affairs' application for leave to appeal the judgement obtained by FOSAF in the case about the Minister's duty to provide sufficient information to allow for informed consultation.
This again confirms this time with finality that the environmental ri ght is a human right and that proper consultation which is seminal to democratic process requires people to be properly informed about the underlying basis for proposed action by the Minister.
Unfortunately, this failure in the past means that much of South Africa's biodiver sity and other regulations are fatally flawed and subject to challenge. We hope the Minister and the DFFE will now revisit as has been asked of them for a number of years the defective legislation and work with all stakeholders to correct the situation.
FOSAF is extremely grateful to our legal team who acted pro bono and thanks all those who have supported our efforts to help DFFE get this right.
"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR - ILAN LAX
"Ouch!" she who always must be obeyed said, "How did you manage to get that!" I was puzzled having just stepped out of the shower. She handed me a mirror so that I could inspect the large, mottled, purple-blue blotch on my derrière. I had to explain that no, this wasn't my squash opponent's doing, but rather the result of getting ensnared, bolero like by some random stray barbed wire, whilst negotiating the thick grass on the bank of the Bushmans to access a good casting spot, the previous week. With my ankles hog-tied, gravity dominatrix-like disposed of my equilibrium and I landed butt-first on a sharpish river boulder. Luckily at the time my mind was on other things, like casting to the fish rising close by and so I just got on with it, the indignity of it all banished from my memory.
Yes, I am a very lucky flyfisher, to live fairly close to this remarkable stretch of water still frequented by the healthy descendants of the original stocking of Loch Leven strain that occasionally slyly take flies cast by the likes of me. It had been a long time since I was last able to take a day off work and go fishing. I was grateful for the urging of Cox and Comninos to get me there. I'd say it's fair to report that we all did well, nobody blanked out and I had my usual swim.
I was struck by how much we share and how much these keen anglers do to promote our sport and contribute positively to its development both in terms of tactics and methodologies but also socially by introducing many newcomers to flyfishing. Chris Tough and I have agreed to stay in touch to find ways for FOSAF and SAFFA to cooperate and work together in our respective regions.
Visit our website to see reports of how the fishing has been and currently is, in the various regions and across the different fresh and salt waters we cover. [https://www.fosaf.org.za/reports.php] Peter Arderne makes a remarkable effort to keep these reports up to date. I wish to convey my gratitude to him and his dedicated band of reporters across the country for compiling this amazing resource, that FOSAF is able to offer you all.
See the News Flash above
You may recall that the Minister set up a Trout Task Team (after FOSAF and AquaSA opposed the 2020 AIS Regulations) to find practical solutions to resolve the listing of trout. Very slow progress has been made due to long delays and Covid. It is hoped a proper meeting could take place soon so we might move the process forward.
From FOSAF's point of view, we would like to see the DFFE and other authorities implementing the original agreement reached at the 2014 Phakisa conference. The gist of this is that where trout occur, they will not be listed. This will be based on the detailed maps agreed to by all stakeholders, including the DFFE and the provinces, in the extensive mapping process that took place from 2015 to 2017. The cost to the trout value chain of independently recording the data and securing these maps exceeded R250K. We are grateful to the many donors, including the NTA, who helped cover the bulk of the costs. If the Phakisa agreement is adopted, we believe that the current permitting systems for trout stocking in the agreed trout zones will no longer be needed.
South Africa is a water scarce country. This is a harsh but simple fact. Our scant water resources are vital to all life. Unfortunately, the authorities are failing in their stewardship responsibilities. We as anglers have joined a wide range of user groups, communities and other interested and affected parties, all deeply concerned at the condition of our streams, rivers and our groundwater. The fish we rely upon for our sport are all canaries in the metaphorical coalmine. That they manage to survive the ongoing pollution, abstraction and general mismanagement of our environment is mind boggling but heartening. But this cannot be sustained for much longer. FOSAF like many other stakeholders refuses to sit back and do nothing about the situation. I am grateful to those among us who participate across the board in efforts to hold government accountable while at the same time getting their hands dirty, helping do what must be done to make systems work and setting a proper example of active citizenry.
I recently read a wonderful article by Bob Romano the American flyfishing author and icon called "Brook Trout and Banyan Trees" which I found on website I sometimes visit called "Midcurrent". Some of the article is so apt, I've quoted most of it for you:
"The first law of thermodynamics states the principle known as the conservation of energy. That is, energy can change from one form to another, although the total amount of energy does not change, making the cosmos an enormous recycling plant - Mayfly becomes trout, trout becomes mink, mink becomes man, man becomes... You get the idea.
It's hard not to argue that everything from the tiniest sub-atomic particles to the universe as young as it may be, must someday come to an end. But to admit that we are mere stardust, poof and we're gone, is that a bridge too far? Is the mayfly, the trout, the mink, the bear, and even the angler, nothing more than a collection of molecules that are constantly expanding, dying, changing, comprised of flesh and bone, mere containers to hold a mixture of bodily fluids?
What about that other part of us? You know, the part that while standing naked in the shower worries about what the day may bring or over previous mistakes. The part that curses when we miss a strike on an exceptionally large fish or dances with glee when we bring that fish to the net. The part that strikes out in rage or falls helplessly in love. The part of us that hums, even sings from time to time, the part, like Siddhartha Gautama, who decides to sit in thought for seven weeks under the shade of a banyan tree or an aging angler seated for an hour on a makeshift bench waiting for a brook trout to break the surface of a little stream in western Maine.
The snow melts, the rain dries, the rivers flow, the mayflies hatch, the trout spawn, our bodies shed flesh, our stomachs grow fat, our hair turns gray, (worse yet, we lose it altogether), the earth warms, the universe expands, and yes, we all die."
I hope I have given you just a few examples and reasons why you may want to join or re-join us as full members and stay with us as we tackle the many issues facing us as flyfishers. Our subscription is R30 a month or R360 per annum.
Yours on the line
THE KAFKAFICATION OF A MAVERICK NATION.
"National" aspirations always get paid for by the sacrifice of the ordinary aspirations of ordinary people. The grander a nations' aspirations, the more entire the price borne by its unfortunate citizens. It is a small truth this, which cuts across every political stripe, all lines of ideological divide. It's as true of American Apple-pie land as of Mother Russia, as true of the Sultanate of Brunei as it is of Bhutan. For the common man it's a zero sum game without any winners ... or at least, would be, but for a current of extra ordinary heroism which flows irrepressibly somewhere unseen in the breast of the primate.
Anders Halverson makes claim that the trout has become "An Entirely Synthetic Fish ~ that first beguiled... and then overran the world". He presents a case, which absurd though it may seem, makes of this fish a perfect metaphor for all that the 21st century manifests. This is, after all, a Golden Age of Beguilement where merely keeping tabs of who's-fooling-who ... (never mind the why), is like scuba diving into an ocean of corrosive glue, where each strand is as strident and self-righteous as every other. And they all come fully charged with own ideological idiocy. There is not much high ground left and every day the remnant truth seems to shrink a little more, washed by rising waves of self-righteous hubris in tides of intolerance. The middle ground is long gone.
Cut to the God-blessed Republic of sunny South Africa in the 21stcentury. Blessed because the first and highest law of our beloved land is its Constitution. That says something. It is a document recognised by constitutional and legal scholars around the world for its enlightened over-arching humanist principles. It gets the basics so right. On this there is an overwhelming consensus. So what went wrong?
In a view informed by the day-to-day experiences of a simple country-boy, small-scale, trout-farmer-type human from a narrow valley in a remote corner of a flailing country on an insignificant planet, shinnying around a tiny sun in the furthest-flung reaches of an inconsequential galaxy, I read with mixed feelings the latest judgement of the high court in the matter between FOSAF and the department that seems to change its name as often as an average person might change socks. The practical effect of the judgement is to render much of the habitual gerrymandering heaped upon us by D.E.A, aka D.E.A.T., aka D.E.F.F., aka D.F.F.E., nul and void. Not for a first time, the court delivers a judgement scathing of government and its high ministerial contempt for citizens, for the body civic, and for its own legal processes. Not for a first time does a government ministry and its high handed officials find itself swinging, like some Pan troglodytes-on-steroids, out on a limb of its own making.
Say of a man that he is a lion, or a tiger and he will take it as a commendation, a mark of some noteworthy prowess. Say of him that he is a bull and he will suffuse in testosterone. Call him an eagle to watch him soar, an elephant to call forth a swagger ~ a shark, a wolf, a bear, a python... and his mind will find a way to construe from each an attribute of one or other noteworthy ability, or extra-ordinary characteristic. But dare to call him any creature off any branch of his own actual evolutionary lineage, be it limb or twig ... say a monkey, or gibbon, ape, baboon, or in fact despite sharing 98,6% of their genome, a maniacal chimpanzee, and he will construe it as a conscious and near mortal insult. Could it be it strikes too close to the hard wiring, an electric jolt to the primate spine?
I ask the question not to heap shade anywhere, but to remind myself that there are lines which must hold if sentient beings are to retain any sanity as each weaves an own tiny way through the behavioural ecology of this global monkey troop, this clan of which we all are part. No matter how we may deck out in high sounding motives and rationalisations, man remains a monkey, first in bio-chemistry, and then, unavoidably, in the behavioural ecology of that chemistry.
It's that butterfly effect where the flap of a butterfly wing in Ecuador might result in the extinction of polar bears in the arctic. Just so, it is in this matter of where trout stand on the AIS lists, or if they belong there at all, or if the lists themselves have any legal substance beyond the ivory-tower idealism of cloistered academics. A real irony is that the trout value chain barely got to engage on any of these substantive issues at all (except in sidebars, where agendas could be manipulated, where every stakeholder contribution could first be discredited, then disregarded.)
Over two decades we (the trout value chain) consulted with DEA and with their appointed consultants... from Rhodes University, from SAIAB (and its predecessor), from SANBI, from society at large. We attended Phakisa. We reached agreement on a way forward. We engaged in mapping exercises ... (who am I kidding? ... we WERE the mapping exercise, providing the only real data present). Only to have all of this unilaterally rejected by officialdom. And every year, every step of the way our representations made the point of process ~ pointing to the process itself so deeply flawed, so devoid of good faith engagement on constitutional fundamentals like informed consultation. The trout value chain somehow landed up as the anvil chosen by ideologues on which to beat out their template for the process by which state control might be imposed over every possible natural resource and agricultural activity.
For better than 2 decades this old white, trout-farming baboon has watched the unfolding process from a front row seat, perched high in the Drakensberg.
On the one side government lines up with a bottomless war chest - "We'll see you in court!" (D.E.A. sits on a plus three billion Rand annual budget. Let's not forget that the public purse they dip their pickles in is still our money ... yours and mine ... ). And on the other ... a small group of private individuals banded together in determination to defend an ordinary constitutional right to a democratically ordered lebensraum. The cost of claiming your constitutional right is significant, and funded by their own businesses and the relatively meagre private resources and the volunteerism of their constituency, a metaphoric David has, on this small battlefield prevailed against the champions of the Philistine.
This seemingly insignificant result coming at the end of a twenty-year tug-of-war, has implications which ramify through all the nuanced layers of civic/government interface, affecting every aspect of everyday life for every citizen, where ever they may choose to stand, whatever banner they may march under.
Nor will we be able to rest on our laurels. Already thunder heads are a-building in some of the proposed provisions contained in the newly minted revised Draft Aquaculture Development Bill. It is an attempt to duplicate already cumbersome controls, where all that is required is to write a single amending clause to the existing relevant legislation, to include molluscs, invertebrates and fresh water fish. Given government's reluctance to explore this remedy, one might conclude that it's just another rent-seeking exercise.
The paradox here lies in the fact that it is the trout value chain - labelled as eco-terrorist, as colonial, counter-revolutionary and irrelevant, which will perforce again be among the vanguard. Once more, it is not really the fate of trout in South Africa we will be fighting for, but for a space where ordinary people can live ordinary lives ordered by proper and good governance, and which meets the admirable standards of the first law of our land, the CONSTITUTION.
In memory of Gerrie van der Merwe. R.I.P.
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