Truant children are treating the wreck-strewn Hout Bay harbour as their own personal playground, says the harbour master who wants help getting them out of the docks and behind some school desks.
Pumla Feni-Gela has called on the provincial Department of Social Development to help the children whose presence at the habour, she says, is only adding to a “crisis”.
A recent news report painted a bleak picture of the harbour, saying at least 17 sunken boats and rampant theft were giving its reputation as a tourist attraction a pummelling.
Ms Feni-Gela said she was working on a plan to fix things, but she would need help.
“We have a lot of kids here swimming in the water, especially when it’s hot. These kids are here at 10 in the morning on a weekday. Why are they not in school?” she said.
“These kids are very young and make a mess in the harbour. They also jump from the wrecks, which is obviously very dangerous. If anything happens to them, it is DAFF (Department of Forestry and Fisheries) that will be blamed, but, really, we should be asking why these children are not in school and why their parents are not looking after them. That’s where I think the Department of Social Department needs to step up.”
NGOs, she said, could also help by giving unemployed people “something to do”.
She said it was unacceptable that there were also people in the harbour selling puppies to tourists.
“We don’t have the resources to police everything. We need organisations like the SPCA to assist us in this regard.” She said she knew the community was worried about security in the harbour, but asked residents to consider the strides made in the past year.
“When I got here in April last year, there was no management at all. The crime rate was out of control. Tourists were being robbed and traders were frequently robbed of their crafts.
“Tour guides were also being beaten and robbed.
“Now when this happens, I open cases with the police. I regularly engage with our business tenants, and they tell me they are grateful the crime situation has improved. I have collaborated with the SAPS, Community Crime Prevention, law enforcement, Metro police, Deep Blue Security and the neighbourhood watches, and the higher visibility of these services is paying off.”
She said there were plans to start salvaging the wrecks.
“There are definite issues with non-compliance with people refusing to pay the harbour fee,” she said.
”There are elements that also refuse to comply with fisheries laws. For example, there are 20 tour buses coming through here a day, and they do not always adhere to the designated parking spaces. At the moment, we have temporary parking near the NSRI, but we need to establish a formal drop-off point.”
Ms Feni-Gela said it would be easier for DAFF to carry out its duties once security was tightened.
Queries sent to the Department of Social Development spokespersons Sihle Ngobese and Esther Lewis were not responded to at the time of going to press.