Covid struck another cruel blow to the small-scale fisheries community this past weekend, claiming the life of veteran West Coast leader Cathy Thomas.

Cathy, 63, from Laingville in St Helena Bay, passed away in Vredenburg Hospital. Coastal communities have received news of her death with shock and sadness.

Cathy devoted much of her life in service of the community. This is how many remembered her this week.

Andrew, her partner of 23 years, said she was passionate about her community. She was actively involved in women development programmes and education and served as the Chairperson of the School Governing Body at EJ Malgarte Primary School in Stompneus Village, St Helena Bay.

For a big part of her life, she fought tooth and nail to secure human rights and justice for local fishers. She stood for fairness and was determined that traditional fishers of Laingville could find their place in the sun under the Small- scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP).

She was a founder member of Coastal Links South Africa and was already an activist when Masifundise was formed in 2003. Coastal Links is the Community-Based Organisation that organises fishers around the South African coastline so they can unite and fight for their Human Rights and Fishers Rights.

‘When I joined Masifundise Development Trust in 2003, I found her here, she was passionate about fishers’ rights, unwavering in her commitment to the fishers in Laingville and promoted peace amidst racial tensions in her community, said Naseegh Jaffer, Masifundise Director.

The Masifundise staff will remember her as being highly principled, selfless and a woman of great integrity. Cathy was warm hearted and had the ability to remain jovial amidst many setbacks and ridicule from her work in the fishing sector.

While Cathy had three children of her own, she is known to have fostered many children, giving them the much- needed motherly love they yearned for. The shooting and subsequent death of one of her foster children in 2020 deeply saddened her, but she carried on as she had others she had to be strong for.

“We will hold onto the many good memories we have of Cathy and draw strength from her fight for social justice, love for the needy, homeless children and the development of her community,” said Michelle Joshua of Masifundise.

“Rest softly Cathy, your work here is done. We salute your love for humanity and miss you already!”

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