The Kassiesbaai fishing village is the last remaining historical fishing village in South Africa and is a Grade 1 Heritage Site.


Fish House will be:

  •  An information centre for visitors. It will assist small enterprises to explore tourism opportunities for the local community;
  •  A heritage centre that provides access to the history, archaeology and ecology of the area electronically and interactively; and
  •  A resource centre and income generator for the local community.

The idea for the centre arose from needs expressed in the local community. The Waenhuiskrans Fishermen’s Union initially made land available for the centre to be build at the entrance to the historic village. This decision was confirmed in a participation process and at a number of general meetings of the Fishermen’s Union.

The Waenhuiskrans / Arniston Community Development Trust raised funds for the proposed centre, after significant initial seed funding from the Anna Fitzgerald Trust. Support from the Cape Agulhas Municipality will enable the centre to be built on a portion of municipal land next to the fishing harbour.

The process for approval for Fish House was a long process. It involved legally reclaiming a portion of land where the legal documentation got lost in long forgotten processes and surveys.

Photo by Megan Murtz

Fishing Community History

The area around Arniston has a long and interesting history. Middens and other archaeological evidence suggest that people lived in the area from time to time from as long as three thousand years ago. In more recent times the evidence suggests that there was at times interaction between the intermittent nomadic communities and shipwreck survivors. Around 1850 five families settled in the area to fish. By 1870 they were joined by another thirty families. In 1905 the landowners told the fishing community to go, but the fishing community protested in a petition to the then Cape Governor General. In a settlement that followed the farmers sold ten morgen to the community for the token price of one shilling and Kassiesbaai was established. In 1932 the Wagenhuiskrantz Vissersunie (Fishermen’s Union) was established as a vehicle to hold the title deed of the communal property. In the 1970s conservationists and the fishing community joined hands when the local authority wanted to demolish the then badly neglected village and move the community. The village was declared a national monument and was renovated.

Limitations on fishing activities have seen a dwindling in income derived from this source by the community. Government-allocated fishing quotas have become smaller and more difficult to come by as fish stocks became depleted. Fishermen without a source of income in a small village far removed from industrial infrastructure have little alternative access to income. Out of 1 400 adults in the village, less than 100 derive a sustainable income from fishing now. Some 300 have some form of income as housekeepers or as employees at the hotel or at guesthouses. A small number of the residents work in permanent positions away from Arniston. Others work periodically on various local government and other projects.


Kassiesbaai, the adjacent Arniston harbour and the Waenhuiskrans Nature Reserve have significant tourism potential, which can benefit the local fishing community.

Arniston/Waenhuiskrans is a recreational area with uninterrupted panoramas, endemic sea birds, seasonal whales, coastal fynbos, important archaeological sites, shipwrecks and the Waenhuiskrans cave. Recreational activities include fishing, angling, swimming, snorkelling, surfing and hiking.

In preliminary research over a period of six months local residents were employed to do a vehicle and pedestrian count of movement across Arniston. While more than 70 000 visitors and 13 000 vehicles visit the nature reserve annually, fewer than 10 000 of these visitors also visit the fishing village. Fish House and the adjacent renovated Fishermen’s Union Hall will establish a friendly entrance both to the fishing village and to various tourist opportunities across the village. It will help to bridge the physical divide between the Fishing Village and the holiday town.

Designing and Building the Fish House

Renowned architect Martin Kruger of KrugerRoos Architects in Cape Town is responsible for the design of the building plans for Fish House.


What are the objectives of the Trust?

The objectives of the Trust are to help people from the community to develop themselves and the community.

A trust is a legal structure for securely receiving, managing and disbursing donor money for the benefit of defined causes.

The Waenhuiskrans/Arniston Community Development Trust is registered with the Master of the Supreme Court (Number: IT3854/2004), as well as with the Department of Social Development (042-478-NPO), as a not-for-profit organisation. The Trust furthermore is registered with the Receiver of Revenue (18A and 30). Each of these bodies have rules that govern the actions of the Trust and its Trustees.

The Trust’s financial affairs are reviewed annually according to international rules by independent auditors.

The Trust adheres to prescribed rules and has always received a clean audit from independent auditors every year. In addition, the Trust’s bookkeeping and all payments are done by a qualified auditor who works strictly according to the generally accepted rules of the profession.

The Trustees of the Trust (those responsible for the proper management of the affairs and objectives of the Trust) are André Marthinus, Vivian Lourens, Colin Bird and Hannes van Zyl (chairperson).

If a trust stops being active, the assets are transferred to a similar organisation that will use those assets to the benefit of that trust’s beneficiaries. Trustees are not able to benefit; only the beneficiaries are able to benefit. In the case of the Waenhuiskrans/Arniston Community Development Trust, the beneficiaries are the members of the Waenhuiskrans community.

If you wish to help us by making a donation, please make a direct cash deposit to our bank account.

Trust Account Details:

  • Account Holder: The Waenhuiskrans / Arniston Community Development Trust
  • Bank: Absa Savings Account
  • Account number: 933 087 1403
Study Bursaries?

Students or prospective students from Waenhuiskrans may apply to the Trust for help. The only requirement is admittance to a university or some other recognised educational and training institution. In the first year beneficiaries must show that they are willing and able to study and improve their skills.

Many students have been helped to study and qualify in fields such as medicine, law, social work, education, sport management, drama, tourism, financial management, programming, scuba diving, construction and steelwork. The impact of study support is not always immediately available. In the long run it creates opportunities and new vistas for young people. Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. These new young professionals will make their mark in the coming years.

What is Fish House?

Fish House is planned as a community centre alongside the harbour. Fish House has several objectives. It will provide support for small businesses; a visitors’ centre for the town; and a heritage centre. The Cape Agulhas Municipality, the Waenhuiskrans Vissersunie and the Trust worked together to make Fish House possible.

Research and estimations show that only ten percent of the people who visit the Waenhuiskrans nature reserve and the cave also visit the historic fishing village. For many years, neighbourhoods were separated by buffer zones of open land, such as that between the harbour and the village. Fish House is planned to be a bridge between people, across the buffers of the past.

At Fish House, visitors will be able to get information on small businesses, activities in the fishing community and general information on the town and the environment.

Support will be available for small businesses, especially regarding marketing and administration. More people will be given a chance to benefit from tourism and other economic opportunities in the region.

Fish House will also be a heritage centre. Visitors, school children and residents will be able, through digital media, to learn about the unique history of the fishing community, the sea and the broader environment.

Fish House, the recently restored Fishermen Union’s hall, as well as the planned upgrading of the harbour, could lead to further projects for renewal. This can become a new growth point in Cape Agulhas.

Who will operate Fish House?

People from the community may apply to manage the whole of Fish House or some of the services only. Applications will be considered by an independent panel, which will include specialists. The trust will provide assistance in advance for people from the community who wish to submit an application. People who have businesses already as well as people who have never owned one before, may apply. People may apply as individuals or as a group. New or old residents may submit an application. An important condition is that residents of the fishing community should have a significant share and advantage in any application. Fish House is meant to be a benefit for the community.

How had Fish House been approved, if there was an objection?

Fish House was discussed at several public meetings and was approved at various annual general meetings of the Fisherman’s Union. An environmental impact study and related public processes were undertaken by an independent team of consultants. Various divisions and departments of the national and provincial governments, as well as the heritage agencies SAHRA and Heritage West-ern Cape gave their approval to the project. Final approval for the building of Fish House was ob-tained from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Planning of the Western Cape Govern-ment and the Cape Agulhas Municipality.

What is happening with Fish House now?

The Municipality repeated the process of making land available for the construction of Fish House. Fish House is being built by the Trust, but on land managed by the Fishermen’s Union. Years ago, the Trust and the Fishermen’s Union came to agreement about the plan to build Fish House. At the time, the Trust had asked a land surveyor to confirm the boundaries of the land. It was discovered that a small section of the land alongside the harbour did not belong to the Fishermen’s Union, but to the Municipality. The Trust immediately informed the Fishermen’s Union and the Municipality of the land surveyor’s findings. The Municipality was not aware of the particular erf, and that they were the owners of it at the time. In a public process, the Municipality decided to transfer the land to the Fishermen’s Union, with the aim of having Fish House built on it. The Municipality then approved building plans for Fish House, so that construction could begin. The objection was made when the construction of Fish House was halfway.

The trustees, while involved in the process to obtain approval for Fish House, had consistently acted carefully and correctly. When the objection was raised, they, in the interests of the project, immediately gave their full cooperation and suspended construction.

The Municipality were advised to rather repeat the whole process, because unintentional technical errors had occurred in their earlier work. The Cape High Court gave the Municipality permission to start the process all over again, which they did.

An objection concerning one part of the process, for which the Cape Agulhas Municipality was responsible, meant that building the Fish House was delayed. The Municipality obtained permission from the Cape High Court to re-do the process and to correct administrative errors in the municipal process. This they did.

What will happen in the future with Fish House?

The Municipality must complete the administrative process. When Fish House is completed, it will form a bridge in the community. It will be a place where people can meet, where visitors can be welcomed and assisted, and where the history of the community and the environment will be kept alive. Fish House was planned as a first phase in providing greater support to the community.

How do people apply for a contract to manage all or parts of Fish House?

Once the municipal process is finished, and the Fish House has been built, people from the community can manage businesses from inside Fish House after completing an application. Such applications will be evaluated by a knowledgeable and independent panel. The Trust will provide assistance to help people with their applications. Application documents will be distributed in advance and discussed at information sessions. A concept invitation to manage services at Fish House has been set up. This concept will be workshopped again, in the community, before it is finalised.

The concept document is:

Fish House: Invitation for applications to provide services

Members of the fishing community in Waenhuiskrans are invited to apply to provide services for the community and for visitors from Fish House.

  • Fish House will be a visitors’ centre at which general information and also specific information about services and products in the fishing community will be available for visitors, both electronically and on paper.
  • Fish House will provide assistance with marketing and through administrative support, for any existing and new enterprise from the fishing community for those who want to make use of this service.
  • Fish House will be a heritage centre at which the archaeological, ecological and human history of the environment will mainly be preserved in electronic format and be available to the larger community, with possibility of being an extended teaching aid to local and visiting schools.
  • Fish House will also make space and facilities available to the successful applicant to serve refreshments and light meals.

The invitation to apply relates to the following services:

  • Management of the heritage centre, seven days per week, 09:00-17:00.
  • Management of the visitors’ centre, seven days per week, 09:00-17:00.
  • Operating a refreshment facility for personal profit, from Fish House.

The trustees will appoint consultants with relevant experience and training to be available for one year, at least, to assist the successful applicant(s) by providing training and advice, if desired. The consultants will be responsible for packaging, electronically and on paper, of information for the heritage centre and for the visitors’ centre, so that it will be available to the public from Fish House. The consultants will furthermore be available to train successful applicants and support them in doing the necessary management of the heritage centre, the visitors’ centre and in the presentation of refreshments and light meals. Standard equipment will be provided by Fish House.

Applicants may apply to manage all or any of the envisaged services. Applicants may apply as individuals, or as members of a consortium, a partnership, or a group. Applicants have to be part of the fishing community in Waenhuiskrans, or need to have been part of the community in the past. In the case of a consortium, a partnership or a group, people from elsewhere may be involved, but the control has to remain with people from the fishing community.

The criteria for a successful application will be the potential of the particular applicant or applicants to provide quality service to the community and to visitors. Applications will be evaluated by a technical committee through interviews and by other means, and the committee will make a recommendation to the trustees.

Complete application documentation will be provided and will also be explained in community information sessions which will be held from time to time.