Struggle of Coffee Bay local communities

Members of the provincial executive of Coastal Links have undertaken a cultural and political exchange with the community of Coffee Bay with the aim of forging deeper links.

The exchange allowed the Coastal Links comrades to observe conditions in the village as well gain greater insight into the local culture and heritage. At they same time, they were able to explore the struggles that local people in the Coffee Bay region have to face.

The meeting with villagers was held in one of the many sub localities of Coffee Bay called eMathokazeni. The community leaders were able to give an overview of their history and the problems they experienced in the area.

Their ancestors settled this land next to the sea several centuries ago. They have been using the sea and forest and their land to support their families. However, during apartheid years the government introduced regulations to limit their use of marine resources and to restrict them from building their houses in the coastal zone. This has continued until the present day. Even since the end of the Transkei Bantustan, the provincial government has still used old apartheid Transkei Environmental Legislation to restrict them. Most of the villagers do not have permits and they are often harassed for fishing and harvesting resources like mussels, oysters and red bait.

The Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs has told them that they may not build within 1km of the high tide mark. A few years ago they were told they would be forced to move from this zone but in the last two years the department has withdrawn this threat. However the town of Coffee Bay is full of white-owned tourist businesses that benefit from tourism whereas the local community do not benefit a great deal.

Near this village of Mathokazeni there is a very deep cave along the coastline. The hotels, provide tours bring their guests to visit the cave. The hotels benefit from this but the local people in the area do not benefit at all. The cave is very deep and is home to many bats. The bat droppings provide a rich manure which the tourists and white community freely collect to fertilise their gardens.

The Cave at eMathokanzeni

For the community, they would like to set up a community based eco tourism project so that they can take groups of tourists to see the cave and they can benefit from this – rather than the white owned hotels. As it is now, they are completely sidelined and ignored, while the Whites are the masters and guardians of the natural wonders and resources of Coffee Bay.

One of the local backpackers has set up a Sustainable Coffee Bay project that tries to support the local community. But there are very few projects apart from this and local communities are struggling.

Local fishers see that there are many recreational fishers who can fish but they are very restricted even though they depend on fishing and harvesting to feed their families. They want to be able to fish and harvest and set up a fish market and sell their fish.

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