THE seven villages of Cwebe, Hobeni, Mendwane, Qatywa, Ngoma, Ntubeni and Mpume surrounding the Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape, are now just plain fed up with the government for continually postponing their court case in which they are attempting to have their right to a decent livelihood restored.
The seven villages, under the leadership of Coastal Links SA have now decided that enough is enough with these endless postponements, and they will now turn to mass action.
“On Thursday October 1, we will have a big mass rally in Hobeni, where all the leaders from the seven villages and the provincial chairperson of Coastal Links SA will address the community,” says David Gongqose of CLSA.
Gongqose says that the mass rally will be followed by a mass march to the Ocean in Dwesa-Cwebe on Thursday October 8.
“The march will be in support of our demand to ‘open the sea’, which has already been started by the community members, who started writing letters to the minister of environmental affairs (DEA)”, says Gongqose.
Other demands of the mass meeting and the march to the ocean include justice for the fisher who was shot and killed by department of Environment Affairs officials, and a request for the opening up of the MPA based on the Interim Relief, according to Sithembiso Gwaza, Masifundise Fieldworker.
Gwaza says that at the moment, the nature reserve is managed by the DEA, and the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries have no say over it.
This means that the local fishing communities cannot apply for fishing permits, and the DEA does not allow the people to fish there.
Gongqose says this is unfair, since as the community they have always fished and harvested the natural resources in Dwesa-Cwebe, whether it is marine or other natural resources.
“Our people have always been the custodians of nature, until the government declared the area a nature reserve, made an MPA in the sea, and declared itself to be the custodian of the environment,” says Gongqose.
This he believes is unfair, since it also denied them the right to earn a living as fisherfolk, as small-scale farmers, and to make use of the forests to earn a living.
Gongqose says that they started their court case against the government and the minster of environmental affairs in the High Court in 2010 already, and that the government just keep on asking for postponements every time the case is to be heard.