On 22 and 23 April 2022, Masifundise in collaboration with the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), hosted a workshop with the 7 small-scale fishing communities of Dwesa-Cwebe. The purpose of the workshop was to get a sense of the challenges on the ground and to deepen community understanding of customary rights and the Supreme Court Gongqose Judgment of 2018.
Mpume, Ngoma, Hobeni, Cwebe, Ntlangano, Ntubeni and Mendwana were amongst the villages represented as well as their Community Property Association (CPA) members.
Each of the 7 communities identified key challenges around restricted access to the Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve, harassment by rangers for securing fishing and other livelihood activities, lack of fishing rights and permits for the youth, and challenges with establishing and running cooperatives.
Historically, these local communities were forcibly removed from their ancestral land to make space for the development of the nature reserve.
In June 2001, a land claim was settled, giving rise to the Settlement Agreement. Following the agreement, the restituted land was given back to the communities under the ownership of the CPA. It stipulated that the land must continue to serve as a nature reserve but communities must be granted preferential access to the area. To this effect, the CPA would co-manage the reserve together with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency.
Despite this agreement, community members continue to face harassment when entering the reserve.
After 21 years of the agreement being reached, no co-management has taken place, no substantial benefits have filtered through to the communities and they remain marginalised on their own land and their customary rights unrecognised.