On 22 October 2020, Masifundise kicked off the first leg of their COVID-19 roadshow and Socio-Economic Rights Project in the Eastern Cape.

After months of being unable to conduct fieldwork, this roadshow provided Masifundise with the opportunity to physically reaffirm their presence in inland and coastal small-scale fishing communities as well as launch their participatory action research through the Socio-Economic Rights Project.

The three-year Socio-Economic Rights Project will explore customary rights in the Eastern Cape in the area of Dwesa-Cwebe.  Small-scale fishing communities have had their customary rights recognised in a judgement handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2018, yet fishers continue to be harassed and criminalised for carrying out their livelihoods and accessing their traditional fishing grounds.

This project therefore seeks to understand the blockages that exist in the fulfilment of these customary rights and assist communities to advocate and lobby for those rights.

In a community meeting held in Ntubeni, community members highlighted that they lacked a full understanding of the Supreme Court Judgment. They lamented that the judgement was written in English therefore excluding rural communities from understanding and knowing the power of their rights.

Thozama, a villager from Ntubeni further reaffirmed the need for a deep understanding of the customary rights judgement. “We want to know exactly what the judgment allows us to do and what it protects us from because at the moment we are exposed and vulnerable to ill treatment from rangers and local authorities.”

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