Kouga Municipality is working with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to get fishermen registered as voters.
Working through fishers’ organisations and a public awareness campaign, a special registration drive for fishermen is planned for the month of June. Many local fishermen have never participated in elections due to work commitments.
The programme came about after engagements between the Jeffreys Bay Fishers’ Forum and the municipality’s Local Economic Development (LED) department.
Planning, Development and Tourism Portfolio Councillor Bryan Dhludhlu said fishermen raised a number of issues at meetings, which also included the municipality and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
“One of the challenges that stood out was that the fishermen are out at sea when it’s open voter registration and sometimes during elections.
“We took the matter up with the IEC and we liaised with the Fishers’ Forum for a suitable date to reach out to them. We are glad that the commission is willing to go this extra mile to ensure that the fishermen are registered,” he said.
Dhludhlu said most pleasing was that the fishermen would, like other citizens, enjoy the basic right of being a registered voter, with more negotiations to be held with industry role players for the fishermen to be on the mainland during the elections for them to cast their votes.
Chairman of the Fishers’ Forum, Zakhele Ngaleka, said they were grateful for the intervention and praised the local authority for being a responsive government.
“Yes, we have many challenges and we continue to work with the relevant government spheres on those, but this is without a doubt a major breakthrough.
“We always feel like outcasts as we also want to participate in choosing the people who must lead our country and those who make laws that ultimately affect our daily lives,” said Ngaleka.
He said his members and colleagues understood the importance of this milestone as some of them would be first-time registered voters despite having been of voting age for many years.