Department of Public Works harbour mismanagement is placing 3000 jobs and a R450 million economy at risk in Saldanha Bay

Issued by Sello Seitlholo MP and Madeleine Hicklin MP –
05 Jun 2023 in News

The repeated failure by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to adequately maintain harbour facilities in Saldanha Bay is placing 3000 jobs and a R450 million economy at risk and threatening the long-term sustainability of the local economy.

Cognisant of this looming threat, the DA will soon be launching a public campaign to put pressure on Minister Sihle Zikalala to devolve management of local harbours to Saldanha Bay Municipality as per the provisions of the Constitution and harbour management legislation.

While the DPWI, through its Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE), are charged with managing the government’s immovable assets as mandated by the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA), Section 156 (1) of the Constitution provides that ‘A municipality has executive authority in respect of, and has the right to administer (a) the local government matters listed in Part B of Schedule 4 and Part B of Schedule 5’. Schedule 4, on Concurrent National and Provincial Competences, assigns executive authority to local governments in respect of and the right to administer pontoons, ferries, jetties, piers and harbours.

Recently cited as one of the best-run municipalities in the country, Saldanha Bay, under Mayor André Brahm Truter, has raised issue with the continued deterioration of habour facilities but its representations have been flatly ignored by the DPWI. The municipality also submitted an intergovernmental request to the DPWI requesting that they devolve management of the harbour to the municipality, but this has fallen on deaf ears.

Saldanha Bay harbour mismanagement is well known to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure following oversights visit to the area in April 2023 to gain insight into how the DPWI and the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) were managing small harbours along South Africa’s coast. On Saldanha Bay harbour, committee members were made aware of the following challenges:

  • There was an estimated damage of about R45 million on the quayside where Sea Harvest production buildings are situated (Sea Harvest is the largest local employer – with 2000 workers from local communities).
  • Due to the damaged quay at Saldanha Bay small harbour, insufficient docking space leads to vessels traveling to either Mossel Bay to offload or to Vikings Fishing Company in Woodstock (Cape Town). In both these scenarios employment opportunities and household income is taken away from the community of Saldanha Bay. If the challenge persists, Sea Harvest may need to move from Saldanha to one of these more favourable locations.
  • If the company moved away from the small harbour, it would destroy the community. The community would rather have Sea Harvest stay in operation in Saldanha.
  • No personnel were available to manage the Slipway Office and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Room.
  • A dilapidated building in the harbor precinct, an abandoned restaurant and the absence of permanently trained security were negatively impacting harbor viability.

The ANC’s penchant for centralisation has become an existential threat to the Saldanha Bay economy as the DPWI continues to mismanage local harbour facilities. To stop this calamitous decline, Minister Zikalala must act in the best interests of the local farming communities and devolve the management of the harbour to the efficiently run Saldanha Bay municipality as provided for in the Constitution.

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