Cape Town – Violent protests put the popular suburb of Hout Bay in a bad light, and could cause job losses.
The area is a very popular weekend hangout for many residents of Cape Town, and is a must-see for tourists.
But the violent protests at the weekend could have a lasting impact on the harbour town, where the local economy relies largely on tourism and fishing.
While the definitive facts behind the protests remain unclear, City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services JP Smith was unequivocal in condemning the actions of those involved in the protests.
“Whatever the circumstances, it never becomes reasonable to destroy public or private property that people depend on for their jobs and livelihoods. The factory provides so many jobs in the area, and (the recent violence) has been shown to have a negative impact on the amount of tourism in the Hout Bay area.”
Violence erupted on the streets of Hout Bay on Sunday, as angry residents reacted to the disappearance of a fisherman over the weekend.
Incensed locals set alight vegetation along Princess and Harbour roads before attacking media and clashing with police.
Flares were set off throughout the afternoon, with the spate of violence culminating in the destruction of a Hout Bay factory.
Some protesters also made their way towards a house believed to belong to a harbour inspector. Two people were arrested after the house had been set alight.
Police spokesperson Andre Traut said: “This office can confirm that SAPS members have been deployed to Hout Bay to police a protest action where damage has been caused to buildings in the harbour area as well as a residence.”
“Three suspects have been arrested on a charge of public violence.”
The cause of the unrest seemingly stems from a fishing incident in which three local men took a boat out late on Friday.
Although the objective of their late-night mission remains unclear, only two of the men are accounted for and the third – identified as Durick Van Blerk – has not been seen since Friday evening.
The National Sea Rescue Institute said the Hout Bay local was confirmed missing: “A search was conducted for a missing fishing boat reportedly with three local fishermen on board in the bay of Hout Bay.
“During a search operation it was later confirmed that the boat and two of the fishermen were accounted for and ashore and only one fishermen remained missing since Friday night.
“Despite an extensive search no sign of the missing man has been found.”
Despite this, director of SA Small Scale Fishing Collective Ikram Halim alleged that locals were not convinced of this version of events, suggesting that many believe Van Blerk was in fact shot by on-duty officers.
Smith also raised concerns over the well-being of the harbour inspector’s wife and child, as they were reportedly in the house’s vicinity when it was targeted.
While calm was largely restored by Sunday night, a strong police presence would be maintained in the area to quell any further flare-ups of violence.