To: All media
Date: 6 February 2023
Subject: Small-scale fishers file harassment charge against rangers after shooting at Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve
Masifundise is a community-based NGO that operates in small-scale fishing communities across South Africa. Three small-scale fishers from Mpume village in the Eastern Cape, filed a harassment charge against Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve rangers following a shooting incident that took place last year.
Of the three fishers, two have been formally charged for trespassing the reserve. Mandilakhe Ndabeni was arrested and charged for trespassing the reserve on the 11 December and three weeks later, Vuyisani Ndlumdini had been charged with the same offence. The third fisher, Thobile Mpunzi incurred serious injuries after being shot and is currently hospitalised.
The hearing for trespassing was originally scheduled for 26 January, but was postponed to 30 January in which Mr. Ndabeni appeared before the Willowvale Magistrate Court. Upon learning that Mr Mpunzi was still hospitalised, the judge then moved the court hearing to 1 March 2023 to allow the injured fisher time to recover.
On the same day, Mr Ndabeni filed an harassment charge against the Dwesa-Cwebe nature reserve rangers who fired at the three small-scale fishers while conducting livelihood activities. The case has been formally opened at the Willowvale police station and is currently under investigation with the authorities.
According to the Dwesa-Cwebe land claim settlement, members residing in the seven Dwesa-Cwebe communities have access to sea and forest resources and are owners of the land of which they cannot trespass on. The communities face an on-going struggle to have their land claim settlement agreement respected by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism (ECPTA).
Masifundise fully condemns the violent acts by Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) park rangers towards fishers securing their livelihood. Mr Mpunzi has been hospitalised for over two months since the shooting incident. The injuries he has sustained have had a significant impact on his health and well-being.
This is the first time a community member has filed a charge against a reserve ranger however, the local fishers do feel their safety is at risk, “We are the first people to open a case against them [the rangers]. We felt it was important to highlight the harassment faced by fishers in Dwesa-Cwebe even though we are owners of the land. But since I opened this case, my safety and right to food as a small-scale fisher has become threatened by authorities.” said Mandilakhe Ndabeni.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) have been alerted to the urgency of this issue in addition, they have also been sent requests of actions to be taken from Mpume village and Masifundise. Up until now, we have yet to see meaningful actions taken to address the persistent violence meted against fishing communities living adjacent Dwesa- Cwebe Nature Reserve.
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