It was a niece who first brought it to our family’s attention, saying she would not be able to enjoy the beachfront without being scared of sharks. “I want to swim without fear of sharks,” said my niece.
“My brothers and I love swimming in the area much more than we love swimming in our pool.”
Most of us rolled our eyes to dismiss it as a Model C suburbia complaint as most of the adults she was talking to (in our 30s) belong to the stereotype of black people who don’t mix with water. With her amandla spirit (symbolised by her raised small fist), she pressed on until we listened.
The proposed fish farm became the centre of conversation and how it would definitely change our lifestyles in NMB for the worse.
The more we discussed the issue, the more we realised that family life would be at risk with the fish farm at Hobie Beach. The beachfront represents far more than dining out, but Port Elizabeth’s cosmopolitan life centres around the area in which the fish farm is proposed to be situated.
Also notable is that we stand to lose Ironman, which is one event that unites NMB citizens – old, young, black, white, coloured and Indian – in an enjoyable family and sports event. Angelo’s, which moved to Summerstrand, is a restaurant enjoyed by all races and ages, to mention but one eating place.
Over the past 10 years I have been in Port Elizabeth, I have witnessed the transformation of the Summerstrand area from being an exclusively white suburb to be one of the most cosmopolitan areas to hang around in. The Summerstrand area has transformed in ways I never thought possible.
The integration of all races, regarding it as the recreational suburb of choice, has been a welcome development in the area. Sentiments and stereotypes aside, Ironman brings in more than R800-million in revenue for the city whereas the predicted number of jobs that the fish farm will create is quite low.
One of the Ironman organisers, Mandla Madwara, said: “The [fish farm] project was rejected in Mossel Bay. Why choose a spot next to our recreational area where we do our water sport activities such as diving, yachting, surfing and triathlon?
“Why on our blue flag beach where sharks will be feasting on anything that is edible?” These are the same questions we had as a family.
“Let alone the smell from washed away faeces and chemicals on our golden sand beach. The farm will only provide 500 seasonal jobs for export destined fish at the expense of thousands of jobs from the tourism industry such as hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, etc as the tourists and visitors, both local and international, will desert our beaches because no one will be prepared to offer themselves as meal to the sharks,” Madwara said.
The economic impact and loss of Ironman cannot be underestimated. How does the fish farm propose to replace this?
It is also insulting for government not to consult NMB citizens about the details of this fish farm and simply expect us to take its word about the jobs the project will create.
This trend really irks me about government. What part of democracy’s principle of accounting to the people does it not fully comprehend?
Government must stop with its nonsense of telling half truths about job creation without giving the full picture as well as the top-down approach it uses most of the time of not consulting its citizens on projects of this nature. It is insulting to our intelligence.
Upon reading the NMB Tourism statement on the proposed fish farm, it became clear that it had also not been consulted, which is very fishy. “The impact on the tourism sector will have negative repercussions on the local economy and environment,” NMBT chief executive Mandlakazi Skefile wrote.
“The tourism sector contributes, through direct and indirect spend as recorded in the last financial year, R13-billion to the local GDP, sustaining over 33 700 jobs.”
Of all the people I spoke to, no one is against the fish farm, we are against the location of it on our flagship beach.
“Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism feels that the project would be much more sustainable in an alternative location which does not impact on residents or the existing tourism economy,” Skefile wrote.
I find it suspicious that the exact number of jobs created is not stipulated in its defence. I can bet that if we had to follow the money trail, more answers would reveal themselves.
Nothing wrong with capitalism when it benefits all parties but this one smells of capitalism benefitting a few.
Simply put, this project, despite the so-called jobs it creates, kills our city as we know it. We as NMB citizens need to rise up from talking about it around our dinner tables or writing on Facebook and attend the City Hall meeting on January 26.
This project calls for our voices to be heard and we must shout if we have to: “Not on our Hobie Beach”.