Mr Vlotman told the Sentinel News it came as a “great shock” to all the vendors when their work was disturbed by the DPW’s contractors who were accompanied by the police.
Vendor Stienie Mitchell said: “This is our place, I’ve been cleaning fish here since 1987. Pumla knows our needs. She knows we provide work and food for over 100 people. That’s 100 families in this community who have food on their tables.”
Another vendor, Wardah Samuels, recalls the incident of Friday May 17. “I was cleaning out my bait, when [DPW] officials turned up, telling me I’m not allowed to be there. They told me they were building new offices in the shed. According to the officials Pumla was supposed to give us a letter saying they’re moving us away from the shed. As the vendors and users of this shed, no one told us anything.”
Ms Samuels said the vendors contacted Ms Feni-Gela about the incident, and she instructed them to draw up a letter with their concerns.
Upon meeting Ms Feni-Gela on Monday morning, she refused to answer any of the Sentinel News’ questions, and said she won’t receive the petition or talk to the vendors unless our reporter stepped away. In their petition the vendors noted that “they are left in a predicament of uncertainty whether they will have a place to do business anymore”. The vendors also pleaded with the harbour master and DAFF stating: “Face to face contact and visibility with potential customers are essential to our businesses. Without it, we will lose many customers which will affect our staff and overall profitability. Many of us are Hout Bay natives, and we grew up doing this work. For many of us, this is the only work we know. We humbly ask DAFF to reconsider displacing us.”
When the Sentinel approached DAFF, a spokesperson from their fisheries branch, Alieya Haider, said their department is not the accountable party.
“DAFF is unable to respond since the DPW is the custodian of all harbour buildings in the Western Cape. At the moment, they are handling the matter but it is not within our jurisdiction to respond since DAFF’s coastal offices belong to DPW and we are merely their tenants.”
Thami Mchunu, DPW’s director of communication services, said they couldn’t provide sufficient comment on the issue since “the person working on this issue was on leave”. He continued to say DPW won’t be able to give the newspaper comment before going to press, and said “the newspaper can choose to run the story or not, but DPW will not comment on the issue until they’ve done a more in-depth inquest.”
Mr Mchunu refused to acknowledge that the vendors have been evicted, or that DPW offices will be built in the shed.