On Friday 14 August 2015, Oceana announced its proposed closure of the fishmeal factory in Hout Bay, pointing to the increase of community complaints as the main reason. This, of course, is not the full story and Fresh Air for Hout Bay (FAHB) has been working hard over the past weeks to provide accurate information, give perspective and help manage the situation with both stakeholders and the community alike. Here are the main things that have happened during this time.
FAHB Public Statements and Media
Since the announcement of the proposed closure, there have been more than 30 media articles discussing the topic. The majority of these have contained extensive misinformation, citing that FAHB advocated for the closure of the factory, that we have been instrumental in developing new ‘air emissions legislation’ that impacts Oceana’s production, and that a ‘white minority has been conspiring with the City of Cape Town to get rid of Hout Bay’s poor people.’ These are completely inaccurate and FAHB wrote a public statement aimed at clarifying some of the misinformation as well as an opinion piece to help give perspective to the situation. FAHB is continuing to monitor the media and is documenting everything on this website.
FAHB Community Engagement
FAHB has been meeting and speaking with as many local institutions and people within the community as possible with the aim of sharing information and gathering thoughts on how to navigate this difficult situation. We have held discussions with the Hout Bay Civic Association (HBCA), the Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), Food and Agricultural Workers Union (FAWU) Sibanye, Thrive, representatives from the Democratic Alliance (DA) and African National Congress (ANC), faith based institutions, the Hout Bay Partnership and others. FAHB firmly believes the only way of managing this situation is by working together and we will continue to engage with local institutions until a sustainable solution is found that benefits all people of Hout Bay.
Community Meetings and Demonstrations
Several community meetings and demonstrations have taken place, mainly led by HBCA, claiming to act on behalf of the workers and the community of Hangberg at large.
- Hangberg Meeting, 25 August 2015: Approximately 300 people attended this community meeting where various aspects of the proposed closure were discussed. HBCA voiced concerns about the potential loss of 98 jobs, and FAWU and COSATU rallied the crowds with incorrect information and racially driven agendas. Their press release the following day supported this. SACP Chairperson and advisor to the Minister of Fisheries and Forestry also attended the meeting. Strong and aggressive language was used by all parties including phrases such as ‘we must identify the individuals standing against us’, ‘we will deal with the people who are complaining’, ‘we will do whatever it takes – if we need to become radical, so be it’ and ‘don’t let those white people put their hands on our harbour’.
- FAWU and HBCA demonstration, 11 September 2015: FAWU and HBCA organised a demonstration to hand over a set of demands to the Mayor of Cape Town and to Oceana, requesting that not only should the factory stay open but that it triple production. Approximately 200 people were involved in the march, mainly members of FAWU, and various media articles have covered this.
- HBCA demonstration, 21 September 2015: HBCA organised a demonstration in Hout Bay to again hand over their petition to keep the factory open. The petition had approximately 1200 signatories and called for a tripling of production. Approximately 30 people attended the demonstration, with roughly 6 adults and the majority children whom HBCA claimed to be from Sentinel Primary School. Representatives from Oceana, the Department of Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry, and the Department of Public Works (DPW) were also in attendance.
Final decision to be announced early October 2015
At the demonstration held in Hout Bay, Oceana CEO Francois Kuttel stated that a final decision would be announced in early October 2015 as to whether the fish factory would stay open. DPW has confirmed that their lease has been extended for a further 5-year period and that the Department supported the expansion of Oceana’s enterprises in the harbour. More details on this have not been disclosed but a recent article in the Sentinel provides more information on this.
FAHB will continue to provide updates as information becomes available, please keep checking the website and our social media sites. We appreciate the support demonstrated by various members of the community and we look forward to a positive resolution to this situation that seeks to contribute to the improvement of Hout Bay for all.