Netter’s long walk to freedom

2016-12-15 06:02
 Patrick Mngxunyeni and JG Fernandes with some of their fishermen during a recent meetin in Rugby.

Patrick Mngxunyeni and JG Fernandes with some of their fishermen during a recent meetin in Rugby.

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Like all stories, this story begins in the traditional way.

Once upon a time, JG Fernandes generously donated 15% of his fishing rights to his crew - at no cost to them.

Trusts were formed for the purpose of holding the shares for the fishermen. In 2005 these trust decided to embark on their empowerment route by voting to change entitlement to be for Black fishermen only.

These trusts evolved over the years and in 2010 the trustees realised that they had outgrown their baby shoes and needed to make some “big” business decisions to ensure continued existence and profitability within the dynamic framework of the fishing industry.

It was then decided to unite the fishermen to form the Lusitania Empowerment Trust (LET). This has been a deliberate effort to establish a more efficient, cost effective and economically prudent entity with diversified investments across various fishing sectors.

The trustees are convinced that the consolidation of the different trusts’ fishing interests would benefit more Black fishermen.

The LET structure allows previously disadvantaged fishermen who are actively working at sea to benefit from their direct efforts.

They are not only earning a living by getting but are actually seeing ownership being transferred to those who participate making a greater success of fishing ventures.

With the pooled reserve funds, the trustees have been able to invest funds in 2011 to acquire 40% of the shares in a BBBEE venture called Ntabethemba Fishing.

This company has 100% Black shareholders: Zakowabo Klaas (Managing Director); Mtandazo Prayer Mtintsilana; Dumisani Templeton Ngwalase; Zenzele Joseph Mvumbi and The Lusitania Empowerment Trust.

This has not only had the normal expected benefit of dividends but will see indirect benefits flowing to the beneficiary employees in the future.

It will create an opportunity for the fishermen to achieve greater earnings from the fishing rights of the new venture.

In 2012 The Lusitania Empowerment Trust and other shareholders within the deep sea hake operations sold this part of the business to the Oceana Group of companies and big amounts were paid on behalf of the fishermen and their beneficiaries.

The trustees then decided to distribute a million rand of the proceeds to the beneficiaries, but realised that was not enough to ensure greater empowerment for the Lusitania Fishermen.

LET then bought 80% of a BBBee company called the Well-Grown Fishing Company.

This new venture immediately accepted its social obligations and became involved in the sponsor of a sport event titled “Tribute 2 Tata” in honour of Nelson Mandela.

It takes place annually around July 18, on Madiba’s birthday.

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela states that before he took up the fight against Apartheid in his youth, he practised boxing, because “In the ring, rank, age, colour, and wealth are irrelevant.”

LET transformed its trustee compliment by replacing the White trustee with Patrick Mngxunyeni and Thelma April.

All these efforts towards Black empowerment then came to a head for the LET trustees who then made it possible for BSH to submit its own FRAP application.

The possibility of acquiring WCRL fishing rights is exciting to the fishermen as they will secure jobs by being able to catch the “quota” and then further benefits from their labour when they show profits in their business.

If you wish to get in contact with the LET trustees then contact them via email at

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