Cape Town - The Food and Allied Workers Union has slammed a “small clique of rich whites” for endangering the future of Hout Bay’s Fish Meal factory which faces closure over its smell.
Carrying signs including “Defend Fish Processing” and “Don’t Take Our Jobs”, about 220 people from the union and Hout Bay Civic Association marched through the city centre on Friday, to deliver memorandums to the City of Cape Town and Oceana management demanding the factory stay open.
The factory, established in 1958, employs 98 people, mainly from Hout Bay’s Hangberg and ImizamoYethu.
The Oceana Group, which owns the factory, announced last month that after years of complaints over the smell, it was considering moving to the West Coast town of St Helena Bay. No decision has yet been taken.
Oceana said the plant had been losing money since it decided three years ago to cut production by 40 percent, to placate residents.
Outside the Civic Centre, where Mayor Patricia de Lille has her offices, Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said it was wrong that poor residents should suffer because a “tiny minority” of wealthy residents did not like the smell.
“They can leave Hout Bay and go and find fresh air somewhere else,” he said, to applause from marchers.
“We have been there since 1958, and many of them have just arrived.”
Masemola said while the smell could be “irritating” it was not harmful.
A group called Fresh Air For Hout Bay, which has campaigned against the smell, has denied it wanted the factory to close.
In a statement the group said it had “never advocated the closure of the fishmeal factory, but rather, we have advocated for the elimination of the smell”.
Masemola alleged, however, the real motive behind the complaints was to get rid of Hout Bay’s poor community.
“The rich want to enjoy the land without the poor,” he said. Speaking of a plan mooted by some to turn the site into a Waterfront-type development, Masemola said the idea was a non-starter, and the union rejected it with “contempt”.
In a memorandum addressed to De Lille, Fawu called on the city to “refuse to bow to the pressure of a small clique” who wanted to turn the town into an “enclave for their exclusive use”. It gave the city seven days to respond.
Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, Cape Town’s manager for special projects and community engagement, said the city did not have the authority to close the factory or keep it open, since Oceana was a private company.
Solomons-Johannes said De Lille, who is overseas, had “given an order” that the city engage with the Oceana Group, the Western Cape government and Wesgro – the province’s trade and investment promotion agency – to see what compromise can be reached to keep it open. He did not give further details.
The marchers then continued to the head offices of The Oceana Group where they handed over a memorandum to the chief executive Francois Kuttel.
Kuttel said negotiations were ongoing.