It has emerged that the National Department of Public Works has committed R100 million to the rehabilitation of the small fishing harbours in the Western Cape. There are 11 in the Western Cape and 1 in the Northern Cape.
It is clear that the R100 million being spent over the next three years will largely attend to urgent and serious structural failures and collapses as well as cosmetic upgrades to these harbours.
So does this mean that these harbours should NOT be removed from the control of the Fisheries department (as well as the National Public Works department) as has been suggested?
Well obviously not. Here are some reasons why.
Firstly, of course, both departments of public works and fisheries have been described by their respective political heads as departments mired by maladministration, corruption and dysfunction! Brilliant.
Secondly, the fact that the harbours were allowed to be degraded to such levels before money was committed to fix them is reason alone that they should be removed from the clutches of incompetence. And allowing them to collapse effectively means that taxpayers are now footing the bill for unnecessary and costly repairs. Why were these harbours not maintained and properly managed in the first place? Most of the repairs being attended to such as repairing jetties, slipways and cranes were last effected in the early 2000's.
Thirdly, while these repairs are absolutely necessary, the Fisheries department continues to fail to manage them as the harbours continue to be the thoroughfare for poached fish and other elicit goods. Hout Bay harbour is perhaps the most glaring example of being the harbour of choice for abalone and lobster poachers. And the R100 million being spent will also not include the removal of the more than 7 sunken vessels at the Hout Bay Repair jetty or the removal of the various junks from the harbour. And this spending spree will also not address the gross mismanagement of harbour leases.
Finally and most importantly, small harbour management must be administered and controlled by local governments in terms of the Constitution. There can be no doubt that the management of harbours by the departments of fisheries and public works is unconstitutional and therefore unlawful.