Hundreds of kids swarmed to the New Harbour last week to cool off in the ocean, completely oblivious to the risk of drowning or being hit by a vessel.
Businesses operating from the harbour say this creates a bad impression on tourists, as the children beg, pollute and allegedly tried to rob some tourists.
“It’s been absolute chaos the past month or so,” said one whale watching boat operator who asked to remain anonymous.
“When the tourists exit the boat the children swarm around them, and in one instance a lady fell and sustained slight injuries when they tried to grab her handbag. Some of the tourists feel intimidated by these large groups of children surrounding them.
“Our office received complaints, and it will most probably affect our ratings negatively.”
A commercial West Coast Rock Lobster (crayfish) permit holder says he foresees big problems once the season opens, and commercial boats have to launch from the slipway where the swimmers gather.
“If a boat hits one of the children there will be big trouble,” he said. “The boat will probably be confiscated and the skipper arrested.”
Berend Tanneberger of BS Divers says, in addition to this, there is a large risk of a drowning.
“It is illegal to swim in a harbour used by commercial vessels,” he said. “We have complained to the harbour master and the police, but except for a police vehicle coming out nothing much has been done to address the problem. There are no lifeguards in the harbour. Who is going to take responsibility if a child drowns?”
Tanneberger predicts the problem will worsen once the December school holidays start.
Everybody agreed that the major cause of the problem is the public swimming pool in Mbeki Road having been damaged during the unrest, when the buildings were set alight (read more on page 3).
Tanneberger added that incidents of criminality in the harbour have also increased. “In the past few months there have been a number of break-ins,” he said.
“Thieves caused a lot of damage when they broke in at BS Divers and stole diving equipment to the value of R80 000. One company has employed their own security guards after there was a break-in because there is no security or access control in the harbour.”
Lt Col Muneeb Africa, Hermanus police acting station commander, confirmed last Thursday that they had received several complaints regarding children swimming in the New Harbour.
“There have also been reports of attempted bag snatchings but no formal charges were laid,” he added. “The issue will be addressed in cooperation with various role-players.”
Capt Fadila September, spokesperson for Hermanus Police, confirmed that one suspect was arrested early on Monday morning after attempting to break in at Hermanus Whale Watchers.
“A 32-inch TV and a laptop were stolen from Southern Right Charters’ offices between 19 and 20 October,” she added. “No arrests were made.”
At the time of going to press the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) did not respond to emails or calls requesting comment about access control and security at the New Harbour.
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