House Chair, the DA says that fishermen should be given their constitutional rights. It is clear that the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and her department are playing political games with the lives of ordinary people. These are our small-scale fishermen who are suffering and bearing the brunt of extreme exploitation. These are families whose livelihoods depend on fishing. They are sick and tired of being part of a political game. You see, this department's draconian laws have made these fishermen criminals and poachers.
These people are a forgotten people from the sea. All they want is to have the sea breeze on their skin, to catch fish and rock lobster, and to feed their families. And, if some of the catch is left, they would like to sell it so that they can send their children to school and, if they are sick, take them to hospital. These fishermen are really not asking too much. They are not asking for money or property; they are asking for an opportunity to have access to the sea.
This brings me to the reason we are here today: to pass a Bill amending the Marine Living Resources Act, which will give these fishermen recognition under law, with a right to fish.
It is well documented that for two years we pleaded with Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to bring this Bill to the committee for a wholesale workover. Our pleading fell on deaf ears. Then, in September this year, three months after the deadline for Bills to come to this House had passed, the Bill was admitted as a matter of urgency.
What is worse is that the Minister then came to the committee with guns blazing and, in a derogatory way, launched an attack on the committee. She screamed at the top of her voice, making utterances to the effect that this incompetent and useless committee had not passed any legislation in their term and were failures. She lambasted the DA, as well as her own ANC comrades, for being the reason her department had to work in a constitutional and legislative vacuum. In her view, we were the reason her department was failing.
I submit that it is the Minister's stubbornness and inability to see it in any other way than her own that has landed us in this position. One day she will have to answer for that.
That attack on a committee of Parliament was an attack on our integrity as parliamentarians. We asked the chairperson of the committee to protect us, but he failed us too.
We want it to be put on record that the DA has been fighting to have this Bill passed, because we understand that the rights have to be allocated before the year's end. [Interjections.]