Police have 'shot dead poacher'

06 November 2012 - 02:08 By QUINTON MTYALA
Police  'shoot at residents in  Hawston, Western Cape who where protesting. File photo
Police 'shoot at residents in Hawston, Western Cape who where protesting. File photo

With high unemployment, residents of the small fishing community of Hawston, Western Cape, say they have no choice but to poach abalone to feed their families.

On the weekend, violence erupted following the funeral of a 19-year-old poacher.

Many residents believe the man was allegedly killed by police officers patrolling the sea against poachers.

Fishing industry expert Shaheen Moola said the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had "completely abandoned" the community of Hawston, which had been cut out from acquiring fishing quotas by larger industry players.

Moola said Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson "has never met with the industry or the communities, and this explains why people are poaching".

He said the effect of poaching over the years in Hawston had seen stocks of abalone being decimated.

Moola said the last eight deputy director-generals, tasked with fisheries had no experience of the industry.

Steven Figaji allegedly drowned two weeks ago, while out at sea poaching for abalone.

But his friends and neighbours insist that he was allegedly murdered by police officers from the special unit.

Yesterday, officials from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate arrived in the town, which is about 100km from Cape Town to interview the community.

Rico da Silva, 27, who had been diving with Figaji on the day of his death refutes the police version of a drowning.

"We've been diving together for a while, and he's been diving since he was in Grade 7 and there's no way that he would've drowned, while wearing a wetsuit and flippers," he said.

He said Figaji had swam towards the police officers, who were patrolling the waters in jet skis.

"They encircled him, causing waves which hit him, and later they plucked him out of the water," said Da Silva.

Though police did not catch him with any abalone, Da Silva said he was arrested for being in a restricted area.

He will appear in the Hermanus Magistrate's Court on December 11.