FIVE years after a fisherman drowned after being swept off the West Pier in big swells, it has happened again.
In that time, the state of the safety railings on the pier has deteriorated even more. The railings only extend part of the way along the eastern side of the pier, with the wall on the western side.
Some may point out that fishermen put themselves at risk when they dare to go the end of the pier in rough seas, and perhaps it would have been wiser for the victim to have waited for calmer conditions, but the fact remains the pier is unsafe.
During the budget process, local surfer Mike Varela was like a lone voice in the wilderness warning of the dilapidated railings and appealing to council to set aside some money to fix them.
The standard refrain from the municipality, repeated by deputy community protection services director Fanie Fouche, has been that ownership of the pier and responsibility for maintaining it was an unresolved issue.
This seems ridiculous considering major repair work has already been done at the landward end of the pier, after holes in the walls threatened to undermine the entire structure and allow the ocean to come through from West Beach to the Kowie River, which would have made the pier an island.
Ndlambe was involved with the Department of Public Works in getting those repairs done, but years later was still wringing its hands over who had the authority to repair the railings.
But finally it seems something will be done.
TotT a few weeks ago learned from Ward 10 councillor Ross Purdon that R50 000 of the department of environmental affairs’ Coast Care budget would be set aside for the work, but the process of appointing a contractor still had to be carried out.
After the drowning on Tuesday, and facing fresh criticism, Fouche released a statement which said officials from Working for the Coast, the Department of Environmental Affairs, his directorate and councillors had attended a site meeting on Monday where it was agreed that the Working for the Coast programme will repair the missing railings on the pier.
“The local service provider has been contacted to proceed with this. Quotations for new signage and replacement of missing signboards have been sourced and this will also be covered through the Working for the Coast project,” Fouche said.
This is good news, but too late for the drowned man.
– Jon Houzet