A popular diver in the Hangberg community, Jonathan Dama, has drowned. His body was found underwater by fellow divers on Sunday, October 11.
The discovery of the body shocked the fishing community because Dama, or Tin Tin as he was affectionately known, was regarded as an excellent swimmer. He once swam from Robben Island to Clifton, according to Sentinel News.
This is the second time, in as many months, that a diver’s dead body has been brought into Hout Bay Harbour. Raymind Samuels (23) was found on August 6, after he had been missing for five days.
In total, three divers from Hangberg have drowned this year.
Dama was a poacher and had no qualms about admitting it. In an interview earlier this year, he explained how poaching has allowed him to keep his head above water for 18 years and how it enabled him to “help so many”.
“We must do what we can do because many people in this community don’t have work and the ocean is the closest thing for them to get their next meal or some money to keep them going,” said Damas.
He explained that most of the community in Hangberg used the ocean as a source of food or income in order to create a better life for themselves and their loved ones, echoing the sentiments of poachers more than 100 kilometres away.
Before his death, Dama expressed his desire to start a swimming school for children and stop poaching.
“I always dreamt of teaching other children how to swim and how to protect yourself in these waters. I know what I do is illegal, but I do have a skill that is not illegal and it’s something I can pass on to the children,” he said to the Sentinel.
Rowena Smuts, a Hangberg resident, said she had not yet come to terms with the news of Dama’s death and fondly recalls how he would stop at the shop and buy sweets and chips for local children.
“He would come from the water, with his wetsuit and equipment in hand and the children would rush towards him because they knew he was going to buy them some stuff. He might have not be known for all the good things, but he had a very nice side to him,” said Smuts.
The National Sea Rescue Institute was not involved with the recovery of Damas’ body, according to the Sentinel.
Picture: Storm Simpson