Fishers in villages surrounding the Dwesa-Cwebe Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Eastern Cape have experienced a loss. A loss of food security, a loss of trust in the government, a loss of customs and many other losses that have crippled the positive development of these villages.
For more than a decade, the small-scale fishing villages of Hobeni have been in a battle. A battle that has seen fishers dying, families losing breadwinners; a battle that should have never occurred in the first place if our government had taken time to listen and responded to the cries of the majority.
Cries that would have brought about positive change to the people of Hobeni and cries that would have assisted the government to address a situation that eventually turned sour.
“I have no hope in our government,” lamented Mr Majembe, “In fact, I will not even vote because it is clear that I will be voting for hunger,” he continued.
Mr Majembe, a fisherman from Hobeni is the chairperson of the Fishers Association in Dwesa-Cwebe. He says his heart is heavy as he had hoped when the new government took over in 1994 things would have changed for the black person.
“I take it personally that those who say they are the government for the people take so long to answer a request and fix an unjust situation for the people,” says Mr Majembe in light of the many requests the community of Hobeni have submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs so that the community can get access to part of the reserve.
“Year after year we struggle, year after year we see people die, traditional healers getting sick because we are being robbed by those who are meant to protect our rights,” he continues.
On 23 October the communities of Hobeni will definitely take back what is theirs, “We just want access to the reserve so that we can continue with our way of life,” he says.
This coming Friday the government will have to face the consequences of their non-action as seven villages from Dwesa Cwebe will access the reserve as they used to.
The Hook was told that no set time was allocated for the action and if those in charge want to talk to the fishers they will have to do it while fishers are at the reserve.
Mr Majambe says that they wish that the relevant departments would come to the party with a written agreement that will allow them access. He said that if this does not happen, the fishers are willing to face the consequences of their actions and will “fight” till the “end”.
For the fishers, a means to an end is a means to fight for their livelihoods and way of life.
A march in the Dwesa-Cwebe reserve was scheduled to take place in September but due to a written correspondence received by the communities a mass meeting was held instead.
“This time around, we will not stop just because of a written correspondence, we want to see an official coming to us with a written proposal that we can agree to and sign there and then”.
“Our government must not play with our people and think that we will take things lying down,” commented Mr Ponono, field worker at Masifundise. “Fishers want what is rightfully theirs and we will support and encourage them to do what they have to so that justice can be served”.