Harbouring anger: locals want in on boat action, or they’ll burn it down
There is a delay in the much-needed upgrade to the Hout Bay harbour after a spate of arson attacks and vandalism
Boats at one of Cape Town’s main small-boat harbours, Hout Bay, have literally been left high and dry – stranded on the slipway – due to arson attacks and vandalism, it emerged this week.
The Department of Public Works has also confirmed a delay in a much-needed upgrade programme for the crumbling harbour due to security concerns.In the meantime, a large fishing trawler is stranded on the main harbour slipway, which has no hydraulic winch after it was burnt during a violent protest at the harbour earlier this month.
The harbour master’s office alongside the slipway was also destroyed by protesters who removed part of the ceiling and ransacked two other nearby buildings.
Protesters also looted a building outside the harbour that hosts a popular weekend market. The harbour has been at the centre of numerous protests in recent years involving residents of nearby Hangberg who claim the government has largely excluded them from local business opportunities and fishing quotas.
They are upset about a shortage of formal housing.
However, government authorities are concerned about criminals using protest action as a smokescreen to pillage state property, including valuable harbour infrastructure such as power cables and water pipes.Riyaadh Kara, small boat harbour project manager at the Public Works Department, confirmed concerns about security at the harbour.
He said on Wednesday that infrastructure repairs would only begin once security had been addressed.
“We’re still assessing the situation. We’ve got a project team that will be working specifically on Hout Bay to see how to increase security. It is pointless to go ahead with infrastructure repairs and then have millions of rands (of infrastructure) burnt up in a couple of hours,” Kara said.
He said the slipway repair tender, originally intended to be issued this week, had been delayed. “Within the next few days we will decide on whether to still go ahead with that tender,” Kara said, adding that repairwork would go ahead at other small-boat harbours.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff), which manages Hout Bay harbour, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Department officials have previously expressed frustration with the absence of security at the facility. The harbour master’s office has been targeted and vandalised on numerous occasions.
Plans to fence off the facility have also been put on hold owing to tender complications.Gregg Louw, a Hout Bay community leader, said Hangberg residents were frustrated about economic exclusion and failure by Daff officials to address their concerns.
In addition, there was no visible effort to address the security concerns, Louw said: “Daff is not coming to the table. There is no energy from their side,” he said.
A few security guards huddled inside an old shipping container outside the harbour master’s office when Times Select visited the site on Tuesday.
A large trawler sat on the broken slipway, while work continued on a second trawler alongside. Louw said the affected vessel owners have asked Daff to help relaunch the vessels in case they are targeted by thieves.
Another harbour stakeholder, who wished to remain anonymous, said the current crime wave amounted to “an attack on the state”.
“I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this is a small insurrection,” he said.