Crime, vandalism, uncertainty around leases and poor maintenance – these were just some of the broadsides that fishers, business owners and other Hout Bay Harbour users levelled at Nkosana Kubeka, the deputy director general of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, last week.
The department is responsible for maintaining the country’s harbours, and, last Thursday, Mr Kubeka and the department’s deputy director, Nyeleti Makhubelo – both standing in for Minister Sihle Zikalala, who was summoned to a meeting with the president at the last minute – met with fishers, civic groups, City officials and business owners at the harbour to hear their concerns about the conditions there.
Gregg Louw, the vice-chairman of the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum and chairman of the Hout Bay Aquafarmers Cooperative, said the meeting was needed because a visit by a parliamentary monitoring group last month had not been attended by the right people – the harbour communities of Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg (“Hope for improvements at harbour, says Quintas,” Sentinel, April 28).
Justin Strong, chairman of the recently formed Hout Bay Harbour Tenants Association, representing 45 businesses (almost half the tenants in the harbour), said they had only heard about the meeting two days before it took place and they had not had time to prepare a response.
If the department cancelled tenants’ leases, it would lose out on more than R4.5 million in annual rental, leave 14 000m² standing idle and cost 500 people their jobs, he said.
“Lucky Star is an eyesore since it closed in 2021 and, with no security, is completely vandalised, leaving it worthless and in need of being demolished,” he said.
“Snoekies, as an example, needs a long-term lease so that we can replace asbestos roofing and install a costly solar-battery solution so that we can continue operating during load shedding,” said Mr Strong.
He recalled attending a similar meeting about harbours in Hermanus about seven years ago with all the relevant departments including the Treasury.
“Since then nothing has changed. In fact, Hout Bay Harbour has deteriorated. My hope is that the current minister has a passion for harbours, in particular Hout Bay, and is a man of action and that there can be positive, proactive steps going further,” said Mr Strong.
Max Ozinsky, who helped to set up the Hout Bay Sailing Academy, blamed bureaucracy for most of the harbour’s problems, and it was like “being in a spider web you cannot get out of”, he said.
“I have a lease dated 1983, 40 years ago, but it has no end date, which means you can cancel it within three months.”
Mr Kubeka said the process to standardise leases for the ministry’s 80 000 facilities across 11 regions had now been finalised and they were ready to start signing long-term leases. The rent would be market-related but nominal rates could be negotiated.
A boat owner said his boat had been broken into frequently, costing him R40 000 in repairs and making it hard to keep his business afloat.
A woman representing the harbour’s fisherwomen said they needed space to sell fish, and she asked what had happened to an aquaculture project that had already been given approval by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to offer people a way to earn a living without resorting to poaching.
Natasha James, the wife of a Hangberg fisherman, asked for help in packaging and processing fish for export.
Nomathemba Sothomela, of the IY Fishing Forum, said any proposal for a waterfront development should consider the local communities who had been fishing the oceans all their lives.
Mr Louw said significant funds had been made available for the government’s Operation Phakisa to unlock the country’s ocean economy. He said it could contribute up to R177 billion to the economy by 2033 and between 800 000 and one million direct jobs.
For phase one of Operation Phakisa, in 2018, R402 million had been budgeted to upgrade 12 small Western Cape harbours as a way to draw new investors and spark growth in the surrounding coastal communities, he said.
In 2020, work had also been completed to remove sunken vessels at the Hout Bay Harbour as part of a R96-million project.
Following Thursday’s meeting, Mr Zikalala announced a R501-million refurbishment programme at 13 harbours in the province.
Ward councillor Rob Quintas said there was enough space for a re-imagined and authentic small-boat fishing harbour with commercial, hospitality and retail offerings for a wide range of visitors.
Public Works spokesman Thami Mchunu said a draft plan would be developed following a meeting this month and take into account “the heritage significance of the harbour”.