Hout Bay Harbour: A vandal’s paradise

A broken shell is all that remains of the factory where hundreds of workers once processed huge quantities of fish.

Brick by brick, the old Oceana fishmeal factory in Hout Bay Habour is being carried away after nearly every cable, piece of piping and roof sheet was stripped.

The destruction of the factory is just part of the rampant vandalism happening at the harbour. The new perimeter wall was also vandalised during protests in Hangberg, and there have been delays in repairing the harbour slipway after it too was damaged during protests.

In a letter to the Sentinel, Hout Bay resident Deseray Uys said it was sad to see what was happening at the harbour because it had once held so much potential for the community.

“I am writing with a heavy heart and great disgust at what is happening in Hout Bay Harbour: buildings being broken down, theft of cable, building burning. It would seem as if there is absolutely no control in that harbour.”

In 2019, ward councillor Roberto Quintas spoke of re-imagining the harbour and transforming it into a place where the people of Hangberg could find affordable housing, jobs, training and business opportunities. This motion to “re-imagine the Hout Bay Harbour” was submitted and accepted by sub-council (“Reimagining Hout Bay Harbour,” Sentinel News, August 30, 2019).

Mr Quintas told the Sentinel this week the re-imagining of Hout Bay Harbour was “by no means forgotten”.

He said the City was willing to work with the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and private shareholders to “create a new landmark destination for Cape Town”.

However, he said the “ongoing elephant in the room” was the lack of engagement from the department and “uncertainty regarding their plans for the harbour”.

Ms Uys said there was scant sign of any improvements at the harbour and added that there had been “nothing but destruction” since the appointment of the current harbour master, Pumla Feni-Gela, the first female harbour master in the country, in 2016.

Riedewaan Black, who used to work at the Oceana factory, said he was “horrified” to see the state of the harbour, but more so, his old workplace.

“I still hear the sirens and the many people rushing in and out of that place. I took my family there to show them where I worked and I was simply embarrassed,” he said.

“My daughter asked me how we were able to process food stuff in a place like that.”

Oceana ended its lease agreement with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure in March 2021, handing the site back to the department. The fishmeal plant closed in December 2019, following a fall in production and complaints about the smell.

Mr Black lived in Hout Bay for nearly 27 years, but after the factory closed, he packed up and left the area.

“There were lots of protests and violence happening,” he said. “People are angry and genuinely upset that they were losing their work, but just like that, so many people were out of work and you could feel the tension in the air that time.

“I am horrified but not surprised. I won’t even be surprised to know that many of the vandals were perhaps former employees.”

Public Works spokesman Thamsanqa Mchunu said they were fully aware of what had happened to the building. The department needed to assess what remained of it before it could be let out, he added.

“The property is earmarked to be let out once assessed by the department after determining the safety of the remaining structure.

The department did not respond to any of the other questions about the future plans for the site and the apparent lack of security there.

Calls to Ms Feni-Gela’s cellphone went unanswered and when we called her office, a secretary referred all queries to the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

Very little has been left behind of the building.
The driveway to the factory is now littered with bricks and muck.

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