The Robben Island Museum’s ferry service is operationally inadequate to transport passengers between Nelson Mandela Gateway and Robben Island. 

This comes after today’s briefing by the Robben Island Museum (RIM) and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to the Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism, and Agriculture on the recent capsize of tourism ferry, Thandi, on 15 September 2017. 

It was further revealed that the report by SAMSA into this incident, which the committee has requested by mid-November this year, may not be made available to the public. This raises further suspicion around Thandi’s operation given that the ferry is only permitted to sail in ‘good weather conditions’, and was already allegedly overloaded. 

What is gravely concerning, is that Thandi falls outside of the required specifications outlined in SAMSA legislation which state that vessels can only operate in ‘good weather conditions’. This legislation is only applicable to vessels which exceed 25 tonnes in weight, which Thandi does not. This raises the question as to why RIM is making use of such small ferries which do not meet the stringent specifications necessary to qualify a vessel susceptible to national regulation. 

I once again call for an independent investigation into this incident, to provide findings which are objective, and unbiased. This will allow RIM to procure the necessary ferries to secure the world-class service that this UNESCO World Heritage Site deserves. 

I have made a request that SAMSA make its report available to the public in the interests of passenger safety, and the broader reputation of Robben Island and its museum going forward. We must ensure that the ferry service on offer meets international standards, and protects the lives of the thousands of tourists who make the trip to experience our country’s cultural and political heritage.

As the DA in the Western Cape, we remain committed to resolving the cause of this incident in order to rectify this vital tourism service for our province, and our country at large. I will continue to push for this service to fall under the mandate of the Western Cape Province, as it is blatantly evident that national government is inept at providing this tourist service.

Robben Island is an essential part of South Africa’s identity, and we must do everything we can to protect its vitality as a contributor to job creation and cultural attraction in our tourist sector.