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Process of Fish House

The history of the process reads backwards, from the latest documents to earlier summaries.

2016: Letter to the friends of Fish House

Fish House was approved once again by the Cape Agulhas Municipality this week.

The Municipality had previously approved Fish House, but an objection stopped construction before Fish House could be completed.

The Municipality did not regard this objection to be substantive. However, because of three technical, administrative errors in the municipal process, the Municipality asked the Cape High Court for permission to redo the process. In doing so the Municipality could correct the errors. It also gave ample opportunity to the objector for further objections at every stage of the process.

These objections, the consideration of it by the Municipality, and the reasons for the Municipality to nevertheless approve the project once again, are contained in the Final Report for the Council of the Cape Agulhas Municipality and the minutes of the council meeting, 23 February 2016.

We now plan to have the contractors on site and to complete Fish House as soon as possible.

In a separate email I forward a copy of the most recent annual review and financial statements of the Trust for you.

On behalf of the trustees, our sincere thanks for your patience and support in this project.

Best regards

Hannes on behalf of the Trustees

Photo by Megan Murtz

Photo by Megan Murtz


2014: Letter to the friends of Fish House

Dear Friends

Approval for Fish House was given in principle by the Council of the Cape Agulhas Municipality this week.

There will be another opportunity for comment on the decision by members of the public before the process is finalised.

The building of Fish House was interrupted through an objection from a property owner in Arniston, who objected on behalf of various properties wholly or partly owned by him. The Cape Agulhas Municipality was advised concerning some administrative errors in the process to approve plans for Fish House. The Municipality has asked for, and received, permission from the Cape High Court to redo the process.

The new process entails a consolidation of property in a new erf and therefore required the Waenhuiskrans/Arniston Community Development Trust to repeat parts of the previous process of approvals that needed to be in place, as required, before final approval by the Municipality. These approvals cannot be obtained simultaneously - it is sequential, and therefore lengthy.

The Trust did, once again, obtain all the necessary approvals. From this process I enclose, for your interest, only two of the more pertinent approvals, as well as the Cape Agulhas management report drafted for the consideration of the Council (this latter report is slightly abbreviated and without a number of lengthy annexures). The Council in principle approved the recommendations of this report this week.

Though the report in itself is lengthy, it provides a good overview of the process and also of the reasons why the Municipality supports the project. The report also deals with objections against the project, such as the correctness or not of the original municipal evaluation of the land.

While we cannot foresee whether there will be new objections, we trust that all matters will be dealt with in time and that we will be able to complete Fish House, and proceed with the plans to make it useful to the community.

In addition, the extension and restoration of the historic Fishermen’s Union Hall, with funds facilitated by the Trust, will commence early in 2015, after approvals by the South African Heritage Resource Agency, Heritage Western Cape and the Cape Agulhas Municipality. The intention is that the refurbished Fishermen’s Union Hall and Fish House will complement one another in use and function within the community.

The trustees of the Trust are grateful for the patience and understanding of all the friends who so generously support Fish House. It is clearer today than ever before that Fish House could be a significant transformative asset for the community.

Best regards

Hannes van Zyl, on behalf of the trustees

2013: Letter to the friends of Fish House

Dear friends

In July 2013, Mr. Robert Haarburger applied for an interdict to prevent the Cape Agulhas Municipality from transferring erf 758 in Arniston, upon which a portion of Fish house is to be built, to the Waenhuiskrans Fishermen’s Union. The matter was to be heard in the Cape High Court in October 2013.

The case was withdrawn after a successful application by the Cape Agulhas Municipality to have the original process and decisions set aside. The Municipality made the application after they were advised by their lawyers that there were possible administrative omissions in the process of transferring land to the Fishermen’s Union for the purpose of building Fish House.

The Municipality thus has the opportunity to initiate the process once again, and to do it correctly. They will be able to deal with concerns from Mr. Haarburger as part of the process initiated by them, rather than having to deal with it in court. The Municipality has approached lawyers to guide and assist them in the process, which is likely to start anew later this month.

The Trust had previously followed an extensive public process to get permission for the construction of Fish House. Permission was granted by the Western Cape Government and the Cape Agulhas Municipality. There were no objections to the planned centre during this process, which lasted more than two years. The centre was being built on land owned by the Fishermen’s Union and partly also on erf 758 made available by the Cape Agulhas Municipality, to the Fishermen’s Union.

The trustees still want to see an amicable solution to the process. We will act in good faith to assist wherever possible in bringing the matter to conclusion as soon as possible. It is not possible to predict how long the new process to transfer the land to enable the completion of Fish House will last. The implications are that there will be further delay in completing Fish House.The community will have to wait for a longer period for the benefits that Fish House is expected to bring.

The Trust meanwhile continues with other projects in the community, including bursaries and other support for students at tertiary institutions.

With best regards

Hannes van Zyl

Summary of process up to the end of 2012:

  • During a public process the fishing community in Arniston/Waenhuiskrans expressed a wish for the centre in a public process. The Fishermen’s Union, who holds title to the land in the historic fishing village, formally agreed to make land available and signed an agreement to that effect with the Trust.
  • The Trust proceeded with plans to build and appointed a land surveyor to survey the land. In his report, the land surveyor pointed out a beacon which previously was not known to either the management committee or members of the Fishermen’s union or members of the community.

The implication was that a small triangle of land, approximately 120 square metres in size, right next to the fishing harbour did not belong to the fishing community, but to the Cape Agulhas Municipality. The plans for the proposed centre placed the proposed building across this land.

The Trust informed the Municipality of the land surveyor’s report. At the time, municipal officials were not aware that the Municipality owned this land.

  • At a meeting initiated by the then national Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the mayor of the Cape Agulhas Municipality indicated that the land in question could be made available for the proposed centre.
  • The process to make the land available took time. The fishing community, meanwhile, made available another site, adjacent to the previous site, for the proposed centre.
  • Architectural plans for the proposed centre were submitted to a panel of town planners and architects, led by Professor Fabio Todeschini of the University of Cape Town and they were involved once again when the new land was made available. After consultation with members of the community and amongst themselves, they approved a new placement, B, for the building, about fifteen meters north of the original proposed placement, A.
  • In September 2010, plans for the proposed centre were submitted to SAHRA, the South African Heritage Resource Agency. The historic fishing village is a Grade 1 National Cultural Landscape and falls within the jurisdiction of SAHRA. Officials and board members of SAHRA were generally supportive and in favour of the proposed centre. Following suggestions, especially by one member of the BelCom, SAHRA, however, suggested that the placement of the building should not be B, as proposed to SAHRA, but A, as was originally proposed.
  • The general agreement was that the original site A right next to the harbour was the best possible placement, both for the proposed building site and for the landscape of the historic fishing village. This had also been the community’s preferred site for the proposed building.
  • At this stage, the Cape Agulhas Municipality fortunately indicated that they were ready to make a decision to transfer the original site, A, next to the harbour to the Trust, to be used for the proposed centre. The Trust suggested that the land be transferred to the Fishermen’s Union as the Trust had an agreement with the Fishermen’s Union to build the proposed centre on land that would be made available by the Union.

This development made it possible for the Trust to proceed with the NEMA process for approval and to do so with the building placed on the site originally deemed best by all interested parties. The NEMA process was necessary for approval, especially as the proposed building will be within 100 meters of the high water mark.

  • For the NEMA process, the Trust had to appoint an independent agency, as required by law, for the public participation process. The first phase of this public participation process ended on 31 January 2011. There were no objections to the proposed centre and support was expressed from civil society structures. This was a welcome surprise for trustees of the Trust, as they had not lobbied for such support. After the public participation process there was another period of forty days for interested parties to comment. In this process, too, there are no objections to the proposed centre.
  • The Cape Agulhas Council then resolved to transfer use of the land for the proposed centre to the Fishermen’s Union and set in motion a process to do so.
  • The process for approval was complicated by another matter. There was no zoning in place for the site; the small triangle of land that constitutes the site was not planned to be an erf in the town. It was apparently inadvertently left out when land surveyors extended the boundaries of harbour land and altered the cadastral boundaries of the historic fishing village in the 1970s. At that time, the zoning on this open land was “indeterminate”, a zoning category that has ceased to exist under new laws. By default, the zoning now was agricultural land, which was not appropriate, given the small size of the rocky plot, as well as the fact that it was situated right in the middle of the town. As the National Department of Agriculture, when asked to comment, did not object to the proposed centre, the site came to be zoned appropriately for general use.
  • By November 2011, the Trust eventually had sought and obtained approval for the proposed centre from SAHRA (16 November 2010); from Heritage Western Cape (26 October 2011); and from the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (17 November 2011). In the course of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) process, comment was also invited from the public and from various interested parties, amongst them the Cape Agulhas Municipality, Cape Nature and the South African Department of Agriculture.
  • On March 6, 2012, the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Planning issued a final authorisation (Environmental Authorisation) to support Vishuis.
  • From 17 February to 26 September 2012, the Cape Agulhas Municipality followed a public process and took actions to meet:
  1. Section 14 and 33 of the MFMA;
  2. Section 40 of the SCM TR;
  3. The Council's Supply Chain Management Policy (SCMP & S);
  4. The Municipal Asset Transfer Regulations (MATR);
  5. The Council's Land Disposal Policy, 2011 (LDP).
  • On 26 September 2012 the Council decided to alienate the relevant portion of land along the harbor from the Arniston Fishermen's Union, for the construction of Vishuis.
  • In April 2012 building plans for Fish House were approved by the Cape Agulhas Municipality. An amendment, which has to do with the exact placement of the building on the site was approved in December 2012.
  • Between 26 September and 14 December 2012 a further verification process was followed to ensure that all legal steps and requirements are correctly and adequately followed.

The proposed centre will belong to the Trust, but will be on land made available by the Cape Agulhas Municipality, through the Fishermen’s Union. The Trust will manage the centre for the benefit of the whole fishing community. They are the beneficiaries of the Trust, according to the Trust Deed filed with the Master of the High Court. Should the Trust ever cease to function, the building would only pass on to another organization or institution which has the whole of the fishing community of Arniston as its beneficiary. Thus, in an extraordinarily long and complicated process, a forgotten piece of land that had no zoning rights is now being reclaimed for productive use by the community. It is especially agreeable that this is possible through the efforts of many people in various organizations, including the Cape Agulhas Municipality, the Fishermen’s Union, SAHRA, as well as various donors and many others.