NEWS & ANALYSIS

DAFF has run down WCape harbours - Helen Zille

Premier says her govt has initiated an intergovernmental dispute over the matter, these should be under local govt control

HARBOURS: WESTERN CAPE GOVERNMENT TO INITIATE AN INTERGOVERNMENTAL DISPUTE

Today we inform you that an intergovernmental dispute with National Government, over the management of the 12 fishing harbours in the Western Cape, is being initiated by the provincial government.

While the dispute is being actioned, we are simultaneously drafting by-laws that will empower local municipalities to manage the harbours.

We are doing this because harbours play a critical role in creating jobs and attracting investment. The Western Cape accounts for 71% of employment in the fishing industry alone. This impact is seen in areas such as the northern part of the Saldanha Bay Harbour, which is a regional hub of fishing activity. The Sea Harvest processing plant is the largest employer in Saldanha Bay, responsible for between 4,000 and 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Harbours also play a critical role in creating jobs through tourism. A study prepared for the Western Cape Government shows that the most unique potential role of harbours within the tourism value chain is in terms of marine access, with specific opportunities including:

Charters and specialist boat trips: Whale watching, adventure, nature, game fishing, shark cage diving, island trips, cuisine and entertainment;

Sailing, power boating, and personal water craft related activities, including marina facilities and routes; and recreational fishing.

While these opportunities will not be equally available to all harbours, due to issues such as sea and weather conditions, and scale of market opportunity, the contribution to our economy cannot be overstated.

Thousands of Western Cape families, through fishermen and women, rely on this sector for their livelihoods. When the harbours are in working order, people have jobs.

When the harbours are neglected by National Government, people lose their jobs and resort to illegal means to make a living. 

An intergovernmental dispute takes place when one sphere of government cannot agree with another, on a particular matter – in this case, the management of our harbours. Harbours are a constitutional function of local government, but the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has been managing twelve harbours in the Western Cape.

In the process of instituting this dispute, we will be guided by the Constitution and the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act.

When we assumed office in 2009, our government immediately sought to resolve the longstanding problem of the 12 fishing harbours, and their gross mismanagement which costs our economy jobs, and fisherman their livelihoods.

Over the last few years, the serious degradation of these public assets has negatively impacted socio-economic opportunities in the fishing, aquaculture and tourism sectors.

Since 2005, a Harbour Steering Committee (HSC), of representatives from the national departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Public Works and National Treasury has been responsible for managing harbours.

Over the years, we have continuously pointed that it is unconstitutional for these harbours to be under national government’s control.

The Constitution – under Schedule 4 – places the management of harbours under local government authority. Several legal opinions and government reports attest to this.

This means that, in the case of Kalk Bay Harbour, the City of Cape Town should be managing this facility and not National Government. The same goes for the other harbours and their respective municipalities.

For the 12 fishing harbours to be upgraded and professionally run, we maintain that the management thereof should be transferred to local government.

For example, today in Kalk Bay, I know that there are only three fulltime members of staff at the site - one facility manager and her two assistants. This site does not even have 24 hour security.

This has opened up the facility and the nearby beach, to vandalism and criminal activity.

When key sites are neglected like this one, and many others have been, investors and businesses are weary to invest in our economy. This means we lose jobs and ultimately local families suffer. The same goes for the rest of the municipalities with fishing harbours within their borders.

That is why since 2009, our government has made numerous attempts to engage with the Minister of Public Works (first Geoff Doidge, then Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and then Thulas Nxesi), the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Tina Joemat-Pettersson) and the Minister of Finance (Pravin Gordhan) to resolve this matter. Many requests for meetings were sent and appointments were regularly cancelled.

Two separate meetings eventually took place in 2012 with the National Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi and the National Minister of Finance respectively.

The outcome of these two meetings was to allow the Western Cape Government (WCG) and the City of Cape Town (CoCT) representation on the Harbour Steering Committee.

National Treasury further agreed to initiate a process to resolve the operational and management issues in relation to the 12 harbours, with the equal participation of the WCG, CoCT and the relevant municipalities where harbours are located.

We acknowledge that the National Treasury process has been constructive but it was not able to conclude its work because the National Departments of Public Works and DAFF refused to participate in the process.

The ongoing lack of cooperation from the National Departments that currently control and manage the 12 harbours is frustrating efforts by the WCG and local municipalities - who hold a constitutional mandate – to promote the socio-economic potential of these harbours on behalf of local communities.

That is why we have reached this point of instituting an intergovernmental dispute.

Section 41(2) of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act states that before such a dispute is declared, the organ of state in question must: “in good faith, make every reasonable effort to settle the dispute, including the initiation of direct negotiations with the other party or negotiations through an intermediary”.

Our government and local municipalities have gone to great lengths in the last 6 years to engage National Government in this process.

We have also tried to negotiate the management of these facilities, without much success.

In our last meeting with our municipalities on the 27th of July, we resolved to finalise the paperwork to formally notify National Government of this dispute, as required by section 41(1) of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act.

We are also now in the process of drafting by-laws that will empower the municipalities to manage the harbours locally.

The Constitution and the Integrated Coastal Management Act empowers local government in the following way:

- Legislative and executive authority in respect of harbours within its jurisdiction;

- Custodianship over the natural resources in harbours together with other spheres of government; and

- Power to assume management functions and to regulate all activities in the coastal zone, by way of management programmes, planning schemes, and by-laws, provided they are not inconsistent with provincial or national legislation and policies

We are committed to seeing the successful transfer of harbour management to Western Cape municipalities. We know that if we can do this, it is the communities that will benefit from the investment.

I also want to urge national government to act urgently on this matter.

Last week, President Zuma made some crucial announcements regarding our harbours:

- The establishment of a Small Harbours Development Authority;

- The rehabilitation, upgrade and redevelopment of some small harbours as well as the proclamation of new harbours to be integrated with national coastal projects; and

- The rehabilitation and development of Gansbaai, Saldanha Bay, Struisbaai, Gordons Bay and Lamberts Bay

Firstly, as long as the “Small Harbours Development Agency” is not under local government’s management, it will remain an unconstitutional proposal.

Furthermore, while the identified harbours do indeed require upgrading and rehabilitation, all 12 are in fact in desperate need of such action. Constitutionally this action must be taken by local government, with adequate funds apportioned for these purposes by National Treasury. We do not want unfunded mandates for the municipalities.

If National Government is committed to truly seeing the creation of sustainable jobs in this sector, then we urge them to co-operate with us in transferring the control of small harbours to local municipalities.

As long as they drag their feet, it is job creation and the livelihoods of local communities that will suffer.

Until it is finally resolved, I will continue to raise this issue at various forums including the President’s Coordinating Council.

The commitment we are making to the fishing community today is one of well-managed, world class facilities that create more opportunities, jobs and better livelihoods than is currently possible.

Statement issued by Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, August 18 2015