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Whipping Hout

Hout Bay’s harbour master Pumla Feni-Gela (43)

had her job cut out for her when she took over the reins in 2016.

The picturesque Hout Bay Harbour in Cape Town is a working harbour that caters mainly to the tuna and crayfi sh industry.

In addition, it has restaurants and a bustling market and hosts many tourism activities.

However, when she arrived at the harbour, it was allegedly beset with corruption,

with boat captains allegedly willing to pay bribes and being given preferential treatment

 and the old brigade telling FeniGela “this is how things work here”.

The straight-talking Feni-Gela said she had to stand her ground against these bullies who were used to doing as they pleased.

She said the habour was also frequented by thieves and vandals and prostitution was a huge problem.

“We had to call in all the relevant state agencies and a joint operation was held to clean up the harbour.”

This earned Feni-Gela enemies and she was often threatened in the early days. She also had to personally turn down several bribes because she was determined to run a clean,

professional harbour, with a zerotolerance approach to crime and corruption.

Today, many of the unwanted elements have been removed

and instead of vessels being discriminated against because the crew cannot afford the bribes, the harbour’s slipway is properly managed and is accessible to all.

The toll of poverty Feni-Gela said another challenge is the poverty of residents living around the harbour.

“In Hout Bay, there is a very real lack of skills development and a high rate of unemployment. It’s also a high drug-usage area.”

A multi-government approach is needed to address some of the area’s challenges, which impact heavily on the harbour and hurt the area’s tourism potential, she said.

Hout Bay’s socio-economic conditions have prompted Feni-Gela to engage with senior management at the Department of Environment, Forestry

and Fisheries to find possible ways of alleviating the situation. She said many of the people in the area turn to crime and poaching out of desperation.

“There are no resources and no work.” Feni-Gela recalled that her office was once set alight after the death of a poacher was blamed on her.

She said in her day-to-day work, she often has confrontations with members of the community who poach sea-life in broad daylight.

 It is their extreme poverty that makes them brazen enough to openly fish without a permit, she said.

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