Three small-scale fishers from eMpume village in the Eastern Cape, laid charges of harassment against Dwesa-Cwebe nature reserve rangers who shot at the them while conducting livelihood activities last year.

The shooting led to the significant injury of Thobile Mpunzi, the detainment of Mandilakhe Ndabeni while the third small-scale fisher Vuyisani Ndlumdini, managed to flee but was later charged with trespassing along with Mpunzi and Ndabeni. All three are to appear before the Willowvale Magistrate Court on 20 April 2023.

Mr Mpunzi has been hospitalised for over two months since the shooting incident. As a result of his injuries, he is now confined to a wheelchair and undergoing physiotherapy.

Apart from being owners of the land, the 2001 Dwesa-Cwebe land claim settlement provides members residing in the seven Dwesa-Cwebe communities should have preferential access to sea and forest resources.

“The failure to implement the settlement agreement and the disregard for the customary rights of the community enshrined in the South African constitution has led to the systematic violation of the human rights of fishing communities in Dwesa-Cwebe. These communities face an on-going daily struggle to have their land claim settlement agreement implemented and respected by conservation authorities,” extract from Masifundise’s letter to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).

As a result of this, the fishers have laid charges of harassment against the reserve rangers for violation of their human right to land and sea resources. The case has been formally opened at the Willowvale police station and is currently under investigation with the authorities.

The DFFE was alerted to the urgency of this issue in January. Masifundise and the Mpume community sent a follow-up letter alerting not only DFFE but other relevant departments, to take urgent action and put measures in place to ensure the protection of small-scale fishers, their customary rights and livelihoods.

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