Committee report on an oversight visit to the Small Harbours and Robben Island

Public Works and Infrastructure

10 May 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Tabled Committee Reports

The Portfolio Committee convened in a virtual meeting to consider and adopt the Small Harbours Oversight Report and to consider and adopt its outstanding minutes.

The Committee had undertaken an oversight visit to small harbours on the Cape West Coast, Cape Town Coast and Robben Island. The oversight visits occurred in the Western Cape from 18-21 April 2023. The aim was to see how the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure managed the small harbours. Members of the Committee visited Saldanha Bay, Yzerfontein, Hout Bay, Kalk Bay, Gordon’s Bay and Robben Island.

The Committee felt undermined by the Department their absence during the oversight visits. Concerns were raised that the Minister did his own oversight, but only after the Committee had done its oversight. It was raised that the Minister or executive members are rarely present in these types of meetings. Members requested that at least a representative of the Department be present in oversight meetings. The Committee highlighted the need for safety as a matter of urgency in Hout Bay. Recommendations would be made to ensure that there were backup storage systems for CCTV footage. Members further recommended maintenance plans for the infrastructure and ensuring that buildings complied with the occupational health and safety standards.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson said 10 May would always be part of South Africa’s history. The day that South Africa became a democratically elected government. The day that the political parties were sworn in and the day that President Nelson Mandela stepped into this role. This happened on 10 May 1994, a day that will always be on people’s minds. Everyone needs to tell their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren about it. South Africans saw the dawn of democracy.

Members of the Committee were here because of this man who spent half of his life in prison for the country's freedom. Nelson Mandela was not the only one; some died in the trenches, fighting for this freedom. This freedom should never be taken for granted. Children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren should always be reminded never to go back to where the country was before 1994, where only a few would rule the country and take decisions about the laws. Apartheid was one of the worst forms of ruling the people. The country should never go back there. She said she felt that she needed to remind people of this. This was not written in the history books; therefore, children needed to be told about it.

She said that the Committee would be dealing with its small harbour oversight report, whether proclaimed or unproclaimed. The management of small harbours was not only the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure but also that of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and the Department of Tourism. There was a lot of integration and work that had to be done. The Committee will now deliberate on the oversight report as it always did.

Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure’s report on an oversight visit to the Small Harbours and Robben Island

Mr Shuaib Denyssen, Committee Content Advisor, said the team worked rapidly to get this report to the Committee, which usually took a bit longer. The report detailed the oversight visits to the small harbours dated 18-21 April 2023. He went through each day of the visits.

Ms Inez Stephney, Committee Researcher, highlighted the key area findings of the oversight visits.

Read the report here


The Chairperson said there ought to be consolidation when a report is prepared. The Committee was not supposed to receive two reports. Some of the issues that had been raised were repetition. The team needed to be able to meet deadlines. She did not know what happened, but she received two reports on the small harbours that had the same kind of information. Some did receive both and some that did not. Nevertheless, she appreciated that the reports were given to the Committee.

Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) said some information had been omitted from the report. She attended this meeting because she was present during the oversights. As far as the Sea Harvest Company was concerned, management had stated that 60% of the damaged keys were not utilised, rendering the company useless. This was because it was losing a lot of income that would be able to assist with creating employment for the people of South Africa. In Hout Bay, only 40% of the keys were being utilised. This information had been omitted. The Committee recommended that the Department do something about the 60% of the keys that were not being utilised. There needed to be repairs and maintenance along with timelines due to this. In Kalk Bay, there was an issue of sewage spillage that was mentioned by the management there. The management stated that they were experiencing sewage spillage because of the congestion of tourists. This issue has been reported to the municipality, but nothing has been done so far. The Department was asked to assist with this issue and promised to look into this matter. The Department always allocated money for repairs and maintenance, and only a fraction of that money was being utilised. What happened to the other fraction of the money? The management in Robben Island has stated that it did not have funding for the much-needed water reticulation system. It was promised that something would be done but it did not reflect in this report. Other challenges correlated with the water crisis. There were also issues with water testing sampling which had rendered the water at Robben Island unsuitable. This was not mentioned in the report. This should be investigated because people, tourists or employees could not continue consuming water unfit for consumption. The Integrated Disaster Risk Management had also been omitted from the report. It was also requested that employees be trained as firemen because there was a possibility that fire may erupt and there would then be dire consequences. There were alien plants that should be removed which the Committee had seen during oversight. These plants were posing a threat to the surroundings. It could catch fire quickly, causing a disaster on Robben Island. This had been omitted from the report. The report also did not state the lack of continuous effective monitoring and assessment of all the small harbours including Robben Island by the Department and all the other departments. This needed to be followed up.

Ms M Hicklin (DA) thanked the support team for its comprehensive report. She said she wanted to make it very clear that the Minister of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure was not on the oversight. The Minister had not been in a single meeting and had yet again not attended today. However, when the Committee went outside, the Minister followed and did his own oversight. This was alienating to the Committee, and it felt, to an extent, quite undermining. She said she finds it very disingenuous and very disrespectful. It was reflected in the press that there was suddenly this new R500m budget, which, in fact, was not new money. It was money from 2019 and some extra money from 2020. This had to be put into perspective because it was not money that had just been allocated by the new Minister fulfilling his new obligation due to his mandate as the Minister of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure. This had to be brought forward.

She said she had noticed a lack of implementation of the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA), especially in terms of the User Asset Management Plans (U-AMPs) and Custodian Asset Management Plans (C-AMP). If the U-AMPs and C-AMPs had been done correctly, it would not have been sitting with all these problems. She was particularly referring to the U-AMPs plans, which meant Department needed to be discussing these things with other departments and clients like Sea Harvest about their expectations and what the clients were responsible for doing to meet the expectations. This business of only using 60% or 40% of the keys not working needed not to be a problem in the first place. These things were to be maintained. This now held the Department over a barrel when renegotiating leases. This was the function of the U-AMPs and C-AMPs, but now the Department “was being held by the short and curlies” by a client because the Department did not do its work to start with. It was about time that the Department actually did its job. The Department officials needed to start doing their job since it was the reason they were employed. Contracts need to be drawn up properly. Work need not be done in silos. This was evident when one visits these small harbours that management of the small harbours was not solely responsible for DPWI, but it included DFFE, the South African Police Services and the Department of Defence. The lack of maintenance and control of those small harbours was evident in Hout Bay. She said she felt unsafe, particularly in Hout Bay. It was evident that the harbour master was traumatised because this was not the first time that she was threatened by the so-called “boys in swimming costumes”. However, these were not “boys in swimming costumes” but thugs holding the entire Hout Bay harbour by the throat. Organised crime was happening, and Hout Bay Harbour was being held at ransom. These thugs used force to get people away from the harbour so that they could do their job like human trafficking, drug dealing, abalone poaching and sinking of vessels. So, there was some difficulty entering the harbour to do the job that needed to be done. It was imperative for the Committee to demand that the Department, the Police, and the Department of Defence actually back the harbour. Why did a tactical task force have to be called in to ensure the safety of people? Why was the Minister of Police not doing anything about this situation?

The CCTV was not being monitored nor operated appropriately by trained people. The operation of the CCTV stopped at 04h00 and the offices got closed. What was the use of this? If the CCTV got switched off, then it was like a “free for all” and everybody just did what they liked. There was also load-shedding, during which time, the CCTV also did not work. This was causing havoc and the criminals “got the society by the throat”. Even the Police were scared to walk into the harbour because they were also going to get milked by these thugs that ran the harbour. What were the chances that the harbour would actually become functional? She said she got really angry at this oversight because South Africans were being held ransom by thugs. SAPS was not doing its job. The Department was not enforcing its mandate by ensuring that it worked with sister departments. Money needed to be spent wisely. There was a need to install CCTV cameras that had a backup facility. It was the same kind of CCTV monitoring device installed in the parliamentary village. There were some in Arcacia Park, with little black elements that were on the walls of the parliamentary villages. It was not attached to anything, but it cost millions to install them because the user asset management plan was not evaluated. So, these monitoring devices are not attached to a police station. This was money wasted.

Regarding trade, in Section 217 of the Constitution, money had to be effectively and efficiently used. This was money wasted and was fruitless expenditure that was unconstitutional. She said she saw these in the oversight visits. Harbours policies and legal resources were not being employed correctly. The Marine Living Resources Act was not implemented correctly. There was so much potential in these harbours. There was so much to get excited about but there were also so many terrible things. She said she loved Kalk Bay and Gordon’s Bay, as so much could be achieved there. She said she kept on reflecting on the terror on the harbour master's face in Hout Bay, and her heart went out to the harbour master. There was only one entrance to the harbour master’s office, and she could be trapped or held ransom by the community at any time. The harbour master was in constant fear. The Department needed to ensure that the harbour master’s life did not get traumatised and to address the thugs in the harbour. Something needed to be done there.

Ms A Siwisa (EFF) said a splendid job was done doing oversight, which was evident by the report. It seemed as if the Committee was facing the same problems it faced with the Telkom Towers of no executive members being present. It had been raised before that executive members needed to be present to give answers at that moment. It is going to become a habit where executive members or officials do not come on the oversights. Some of the issues could be easily resolved in those meetings. Proper follow-up had to be done because it seemed as though Committee was being undermined. This was escalating to another level and could no longer be ignored. Executive members needed to be available during oversight to respond to questions. It might be that the approach had changed, where oversight was done first and then the Department briefed afterwards. She was always reminded of the Telkom Towers situation. She was not there for the small harbour oversight because she had other commitments, but in one of the meetings the previous year, mention was made about a maintenance plan. This was an issue that also needed to be addressed. She recommended that the Department brief the Committee on how far the maintenance plan was. The response she got previously was that the sister departments renting the buildings were supposed to do their own maintenance. She reiterated that there needed to be a maintenance plan in place. It was about time that a meeting with the Minister was held about his own oversight meetings after the Committee did its oversight. If the Minister had oversight before the Committee, it would have been a different story. She suggested that even a representative of the Department come to the oversight. The maintenance issue was going to be a huge problem if a proper maintenance plan was not developed. With many tourists, it also became a problem of absolution. The Department itself needed to come in and speak with the Department of Water and Sanitation and the local government where this happens. These facilities need to be maintained. A report was needed. She said she could only picture what had happened there. She was glad to see the report on the website and thanked Ms Mokgotho for doing such a splendid job. She was unsure whether she could attend and asked Ms Mokgotho to attend this meeting because she was part of the oversight. Anybody reading this report would be able to paint a picture of what happened during the oversights. The Committee could always rely on the support team for proper reports.

Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) echoed the sentiments of the Members in welcoming the excellent report that was presented including the analysis made by the Researcher. She said one of her biggest concerns was around the lack of amendments to legislation pertaining to the sector, including the annual regulations on the amendment of fees and things like that. This had to be dealt with speedily. This matter had to be discussed with the relevant committees and departments. In this current economy, people needed to make ends meet with what was available. There was no urgency to improve revenue generation and that was a concern. There had not been an increase for the last 10-15 years. The rental of buildings was also an area of great concern. The market-related value was also something that could be explored to improve revenue generation. There had to be a concerted effort on this issue.

There were funded skills development initiatives. This would be enhanced through collaborative efforts with higher education institutions. It would benefit local communities and create jobs in the harbour sector. This was an area that had to be prioritised and worked on speedily. She appreciated the inputs made by the community members such as Mr Moss, community leader of the local fishing. Many of the issues the Committee became aware of were because of Mr Moss and other community members. This was valuable in trying to strengthen these areas in small harbours, whether proclaimed or unproclaimed. The issue of the harbour committees needed to be revived. This was a matter of urgency for security, especially where infrastructure was in place but not being monitored by skilled staff or a backup system. The harbour master had been held hostage in the past. She said she had heard what the other Members of the Committee had said about the criminal matters, but the report by the Department spoke around the fact that there were not enough Police Officers to assist in monitoring the harbours. She proposed an engagement with the security cluster as a whole. Remedies need to be discussed on how best to secure the small harbours, eliminate criminal elements, and minimise the entering of such people. All state institutions or buildings needed to comply with occupational health and safety standards and legislation as rolled out by the Department of Labour. There have been various incidents in the past about non-application of occupational health and safety procedures and legislation. This made government susceptible to Court actions. This needed to be minimised. There was a concerted focus on big vessels. In addition to that, there was a clear threat to several small vessels. There needed to be a focus on how to minimise those criminal activities. She said she had seen several incidents with children being involved. These were the same children that had to be in school but were actively involved in these criminal activities. What would happen if this thing escalated? There needed to be joint efforts with the communities in trying to eradicate the issue. In Kalk Bay, there were issues of bulk infrastructure that were supposed to be taken care of by the local municipalities. In the oversight visit, those municipalities were not present. She proposed continuous engagement with the local government regarding the role it should play regarding bulk infrastructure and assisting small harbours in the effectiveness of rolling out services. This included future development plans which might include the usage of land of local government institutions.

She raised a concern about the fact that there were so many people in acting positions. These were issues raised in the legacy report dated back in 2017. There was a slow movement towards addressing these issues. When officials were asked what was happening of this issue, it was always that they did not know what was happening in that field since they were in an acting position after the previous person retired or resigned. She suggested that there be some kind of legacy report that was left behind so that those in acting positions could have a broad report on what was happening regarding the issues and remedies thereof. She suggested that the different issues that needed to be addressed be cleared and there be engagements with other committees and departments around issues that might not be within this ambit. The pronouncement by the Minister on R500 million cash injection was actually not new money. It was already out there and the public thought it was new money. This was misinterpreted and misunderstood, making people think that money had been misinterpreted or misused. There needed to be some clarity around this in the public domain. The proposal of a seven kilometres bridge between Blouberg and Robben Island was an excellent idea and something that should be ventured into to ensure that it was beneficial and cost-effective to Robben Island and the different departments.

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) said that she was covered by the comments from other Members and that the report was a true reflection of what had transpired. She moved for the adoption of the report.

Mr T Mashele (ANC) appreciated the manner and the spirit in which the reports were packaged. The team did an excellent job. He was happy that the Committee interacted with the oversight report. He had an issue with how leases are managed. This had been raised for a very long time and needed to come to an end. Government properties were being rented for free. There were instances where people did not pay or there was no collection thereof. It was not even clear how much the Sea Harvest was paying. The issue of evergreen contracts did exist. The Committee needed not to be held at ransom and threatened that Sea Harvest did this and that it would not happen in a particular community outside of them. There needed to be a balance between the support that the Department was giving to its clients and what the clients were paying. This need not be a ransom situation with government finding itself sponsored by private business. He appreciated the work that this Committee had done. He made an example of Robben Island. There was a pronouncement that showed the effectiveness of what the Committee did. It was important to him that there be a pronouncement and he urged Members not to just focus and fight because nine items were listed instead of ten. The focus needed to be on those nine items listed.

The Chairperson appreciated Mr Mashele’s commitment to the Committee despite his apology and being busy. She appreciated the well-detailed report and the inputs from the Researcher. There was some repetition highlighted but it enhanced some of the reported issues. The Committee would take this report going forward. There was an issue with the Department using implementing agents for maintenance, especially in Robben Island. The issue of the Department making use of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has been raised several times. This Department was an entity that had done so well with other departments, but it was not utilising the entity. She did not understand the reason for this. It was as if the Department wanted to see the entity failing. Why was the Department not using its entity for the scheduled maintenance? This was asked by the Committee many times before. There had to be a follow-up regarding the harbour communities and whether it had really activated them, especially in Hout Bay. It was clear that they were not there and not working. She said SAPS and the municipality needed to step in. The commitment made by the Minister was something that had to be follow-up on. It was now the 2023/24 financial year and there was a need to check whether there had been any other contribution of funds. The Committee received a report in Saldanha Bay on the refurbishment that had been done and the amount of the budget that was utilised. This included doing a project within the stipulated time. The Committee really appreciated this. The comments made by the Members were just points that they have raised. There was no reason to respond, and the report was in order.

The report was adopted.

Consideration and adoption of the minutes of previous meetings

The Committee considered the minutes of the meeting on 03 May 2023.

Mr I Seitlholo (DA) said that his surname was spelt wrong. It was corrected.

It was noted that Ms G Osman, Executive Secretary, was also present in the meeting. Her attendance was added to the support team.

The minutes of 03 May 2023, as amended, were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.


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