Mariner’s Wharf hit by lockdown

Mariners Wharf in Hout Bay has closed its doors and retrenched employees due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

While the number of people being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rise, so too do the number of businesses.

Mariner’s Wharf, one of the top tourist destinations in Hout Bay, is the latest casualty, being forced to close their doors and also release some of their staff.

After 35 years of trading, owner and developer of Mariner’s Wharf, Stanley Dorman, confirmed that they decided to cease trading until the economy is fully revived.

“We had to make this extremely difficult call, as the alternative could have led to liquidation, with employees then receiving less than their full entitlements,” Mr Dorman said in a statement.

He explained that alternatives were explored, but several other disruptions in recent times such as water restrictions, power outages, poor service delivery from council, riots, a declining fishing resource and other issues relating to government leases on which the building stands, had all led to a decline in tourism numbers.

“Despite having spent many weeks and sleepless nights trying to find viable alternatives to overcoming the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, which continues to devastate the world, other factors were also taken into consideration and played a crucial role in this decision,” the statement read.

Mr Dorman had taken the tough decision to retrench employees with exceptions being elements of essential services such as security and maintenance departments.

“Nonetheless, the company intends guaranteeing affected staff full retrenchment packages, which will also take into consideration long service, in many instances stretching back many years,” Mr Dorman said.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said despite businesses all over Hout Bay, the city and the province being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it could not have been an easy decision to make.

“It could have been no easy decision to temporarily close and cease operations at Mariner’s Wharf with a real possibility of facing permanent closure. This landmark conglomerate of retail, snoek and seafood processing, food and hospitality has for decades provided employment to the Hout Bay community,” Mr Quintas said.

He said he could understand the decision taken, especially with the series of drastic events which led up to the nationwide lockdown.

“In these uncertain times and importantly when one considers the effects of the drought which saw a slump in visitors to Cape Town over vital seasonal trade periods as well as the ongoing and frequent violent riots which have plagued all businesses and made the harbour area unappealing for visitors and job creating investors, it is sadly no surprise that temporary closure in order to stand a chance of reopening and creating jobs again in the future was the decision made by this private business,” Mr Quintas said. He added that he remains hopeful that the doors of Mariner’s Wharf would reopen soon.

“Our people need to work, and for that reason as well as the attraction factor that Mariner’s provides, I sincerely hope that they are able to reopen and continue their business.”

However, some in the Hout Bay community felt the owners could do more to secure the livelihoods of those living in the area.

Community activist, Roscoe Jacobs rejected the decision made by the owners and accused them of “playing the victim”.

“This has been rejected by the community as a cowardly and selfish decision. Workers that I have engaged with are not happy with his decision and they have not been engaged. They heard about his decision on social media and through the media,” Mr Jacobs said.

He said he felt bad for the families affected by this decision, saying it created “uncertainty for their futures” and further worsened the triple burden of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Mr Jacobs has since engaged workers’ unions to ensure that workers’ rights were adhered to and had hoped to see the owners using the measures offered by government to aid struggling businesses.

“There is a lot of resentment towards Mr Dorman for his poor treatment of our people who have helped him accumulate his wealth. There are many things that can be done in this regard but the directive and mandate will come from the people as per the action,” Mr Jacobs said. “His decision is rash and in his interest and his alone.”

The Sentinel had spoken to employees, but they later chose to retract their comments in fear of causing their chances of working at Mariner’s Wharf in future any harm.