Hout Bay civic groups, businesses and community leaders have welcomed a draft by-law that would let the City wrest control of Cape Town’s harbours from national government.
Hout Bay Harbour has been plagued by crime and the wrecks languishing there have drawn the ire of residents and tourists alike.
Harbour master Pumla Feni-Gela, appointed last year, has struggled with red tape and budgets to tighten security but she has said wreck salvaging would start in August.
The City lays blame for the deteriorating condition of the harbours squarely on the departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and Public Works.
Hout Bay Harbour is owned by Public Works and managed by the DAFF on the grounds that it has been declared a fishing harbour under the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998.
The City, unhappy with the job DAFF and Public Works are doing, argues it has a constitutional right to administer harbours in its municipal jurisdiction.
The draft Harbour By-law, says deputy mayor Ian Neilson, will help it do just that and “regulate how the national Department of Public Works, as owner of the harbours, manages them”.
He said the City had engaged with both DAFF and Public Works “for several years” to work out a “cooperative basis” to administer the harbours, but these efforts “had come to nought”, and the City had no choice but “forge ahead” with the proposed by-law, which is out for public comment until Saturday July 8.
“Our harbours cannot continue to be neglected and mismanaged, falling ever further into disrepair… Lack of professional management and maintenance has resulted in the serious degradation of these public assets, an increase in crime, and a failure to development their economic potential,” said Mr Neilson.
Len Swimmer, chairperson of the Hout Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, said it was a “very good move” on the part of the City.
“I do still have some concerns though. Who is going to benefit from the by-law, and who will receive the rental or lease monies. The City may administer the harbour’s assets, but there will still be a lot of oversight from central government since it owns these assets. The City will need to work out how all this will work,” he said.
Anthony Stroebel, co-owner of the Bay Harbour Market, said the market welcomed and supported any formal management of the Hout Bay Harbour area in unlocking the “latent potential that exists here” to boost tourism and job creation.
“It is a tragedy that this, one of Cape Town’s jewels, has been allowed to reduce to this level of degradation and mismanagement, when it is surrounded by a community in need of commercial opportunity,” Mr Stroebel said.
“With sound vision and foresight, this could become an extremely viable commercial area just look what happened with Bay Harbour Market. Someone just needs to take charge.”
Sanele Gaqa, chairperson of the Hout Bay Partnership, said he trusted the decision had been made in the best interests of the Hout Bay Harbour and the people who relied on it for their livelihoods.
The Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) was not surprised the City had drafted the by-law. “The deterioration of the Hout Bay harbour was one of the major concerns of the Hangberg community,” said its secretary, Warren Abrahams.
“Under the management of DAFF and Public Works, we see boats being plundered and sunk, security measures and contracts being withdrawn and not being implemented, theft and robberies everywhere during day and night. I hope that this move from the City will see the surrounding fishing community benefit from the harbour instead of a minority.”
He hopes job creation and hiring of local labour will be top of the agenda.
“The escalation of school children bunking school and participating in illegal acts and loitering on the harbour is also a big concern,” said, stressing that the harbour needed a facelift to draw tourists and locals should be trained to become traders and business owners.
The authorities, he said, should also not lose sight of the past injustices suffered by the Hangberg community and their reliance on the harbour and the fishing industry , as their ancestors had lived in the area for generations.
“If this is what the draft harbour by-law means for the community, then we are all for it. We were elected in our positions by the community and will only agree and consider such change, if it is in the best interest of our community.”
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said Hout Bay Harbour was a “prime example” of how mismanagement by Public Works in Pretoria had cost the community dearly in lost tourism revenue and development opportunities.
He said his “many requests” for action to deal illegal immigration, drug and abalone trafficking and poor maintenance, among other things, had been ignored.
DAFF spokesperson Palesa Mokomele and Public Works spokesperson Thami Mchunu did not respond to our questions by deadline.
You can view the Draft Harbour By-law at www.capetown.gov.za to comment before Saturday July 8.