Hout Bay protesters go after tourists‚ boats, restaurants and helicopter
Protesting residents of Hangberg opened fire on a police helicopter and attacked tourists‚ boats and restaurants at Hout Bay harbour on Tuesday‚ sparking running battles with riot police.
A young boy was shot in the mouth at close range when riot police attempted to disperse the group of about 200.
Panicked foreign tourists took refuge inside a waterfront restaurant and about 150 were led to safety along the beach while a group of protesters looted boats in Hout Bay marina. Witnesses described numerous scuffles at the popular tourist site‚ including on board one of the Seal Island ferries.
Protesters attempted to set fire to the surrounding mountainside using flares stolen from marina boats‚ and police claimed flares were fired at a helicopter which was monitoring the unrest.
Fishermen armed with petrol bombs and rocks said they were angry about a reduction in the rock lobster quota by 60kgs from 110kg to 50kg for the six-month fishing season.
“How can we live with 50kg? That's probably R9‚000 for six months‚ and the next six months? How are we going to survive?” said one.
Crayfisherman Alexander Plaatjies said they were upset that fishing companies with trawlers were allocated large quotas. He was also upset at the encroachment of private developments on land which “indigenous people” had lived on for generations.
“We just want service delivery. We can build our own homes‚ they must just tend to the basic needs of the community. We are entrepreneurs‚ we don’t live off (the government)‚” he said.
“These protests are about everything‚ all the problems are being highlighted in these protests.”
Tuesday’s incidents‚ which followed a related incident on Monday inside the Cape Town head office of the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries (Daff)‚ began when protesters barricaded the road leading to the harbour with burning bins.
A breakaway group attempted to rob two tourists outside their buses‚ and another group entered the harbour and attacked Mariner's Wharf restaurant‚ stoning windows and stealing outside furniture which was dumped on the fire.
Police then advanced in front of a water cannon‚ firing rubber bullets and throwing stun grenades. The protesters scattered onto the beach and towards the harbour. Fifteen metres behind the barricade a wooden table lay tilted at an angle. Three people — the boy and two women — crouched beneath it. A policeman fired at least three times at them from less than two metres away. People watching from the dunes beside the road screamed at the officer to stop.
The boy‚ who looked younger than 10‚ staggered to the pavement and fell to his knees‚ spitting mouthfuls of blood. Onlookers went to the boy’s aid and eventually a police officer drove him away and he was taken to hospital.
“We lost 11 of our tables and about 50% of our windows‚” said Mariner’s Wharf director Shaun Bloch‚ adding that police were slow to react.
“People were rushing into the restaurant to find a safe hiding area.”
Bloch said the incident would only add to the area’s economic woes. “In the last three months the [tourism] figures are down dramatically. We employ about 170 people‚ about half of them from Hangberg‚ so this doesn't make sense‚” he said.
Ferry operator Ken Evans described the harbour violence as “the most serious and disturbing incident we've had in Hout Bay”.
City of Cape Town mayoral committee member JP Smith said two council staff were injured‚ with one hospitalised. “City enforcement staff will remain on site until late tonight and will extend their presence if necessary‚” Smith said.
“The city understands that protesters may have serious complaints relating to fishing quotas but the legitimacy of their case is completely undermined by the violence they engaged in and the damage to private and public infrastructure.”
Aggrieved fishermen posted angry messages on social media calling on other coastal communities to join the protests. Daff minister Senzeni Zokwana is scheduled to meet with fishermen next week on his return from China.
Protesters taunted police as the sun set and told TimesLIVE that they would burn down the boats in the harbour.
Additional reporting by GroundUp