In February 2016, the Eastern Cape High Court rules that the institution of the Dwesa-Cwebe Marine Protected Area does not extinguish the exercise of the customary rights of access of coastal communities to their marine resources.

This was the result the appeal of David Gongqose and other 2 fishers from the Hobeni village in Dwesa-Cwebe on the Wild Coast, against their conviction in the Elliotdale Magistrate’s Court for fishing unlawfully within an MPA. The three fishers were later joined at the Court by the rest of the customary fishing communities of Hobeni, Mendwane and Cwebe.  

While this victory in court gave a clear recognition of the communities’ customary tenure rights, after more than one and a half year the communities are still fighting to have their right to participate in the governance of the land recognized to be part of their customary tenure.

On the 13th of October, the Dwesa-Cwebe Working Committee has given the EC Dept. of Rural Development and Land Reform (RDLR) and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism (ECPTA) 24 hours to announce the date for the election of a legitimate Community Property Association in the communities.

“Without a legitimate CPA as per our Constitution our Land Claim Settlement Agreement is not fulfilled. Without a CPA ECPTA can no longer continue to manage the reserve without a co-management committee” said the Dwesa-Cwebe Working Committee in the communication.

From the institutions of the MPA, communities are not allowed to collect resources from the forest or from the rivers, estuaries and coastal waters. During a workshop on the Tenure Guidelines, Mr Gongqose shared how it has been their customary practice for generations to use the sea and its resources for the purposes of feeding their families, cleanse and feed themselves and to undertake particular ancestral rituals, such as use of the sea, forests and rivers to become baptized as traditional healers of the sea or land, or to bury family members who pass way. “For generations women and girl children have been harvesting intertidal resources including octopus, abalone, lobster and mussels whilst men have traditionally fished from the shore for different line fish species”.

The Dwesa-Cwebe communities continue to fight to have their right to participate in the management or their natural resource and to practice their customary rights recognized, in line with the Tenure Guidelines.

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