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The DA in the WC commends the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Fire and Rescue Services, and port officials at the Table Bay harbour for the swift evacuation of 68 passengers aboard a sinking Robben Island ferry stranded at sea on Friday, 15 September 2017.

All 68 passengers were safely rescued and transferred to the harbour jetty, where Emergency Medical Service stations were set up to provide treatment. We wish any injured visitors to the island a speedy recovery.

It is gravely worrying that the safety of the ferry service between the Nelson Mandela Gateway and Robben Island has now been brought into question.

I will be meeting with Western Cape MEC for Tourism, Alan Winde, to push for the Robben Island ferry service to be moved beneath provincial mandate. We cannot sit idle when lives are at stake due to incompetence at national level.In August 2016, the Robben Island Museum (RIM) Steering Committee informed the Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism, and Agriculture, that RIM ferry boats are not adequate for the Atlantic Ocean, with services being increasingly intermittent as boats are often unable to operate in local conditions. It then comes as no surprise to hear that this most recent incident was caused by alleged windy conditions over Table Bay, a regular occurrence due to Cape Town’s topography.

The Robben Island Museum is an entity of the National Department of Arts and Culture, with its infrastructure being operated and maintained by the National Department of Public Works. The RIM Steering Committee mentioned that it was often obligated to outsource local yachts to ferry tourists across the bay as the allocated ferries were dysfunctional.

If national government under the ANC is denying the Robben Island Museum, a South African National Heritage Site with World Heritage status, the ability to accommodate some 25 000 visitors per month and create jobs for local people, we will push for the Western Cape to manage this vital tourist service.

As the DA in the Western Cape, we will not jeopardise the safety of our tourists and the security of our tourism economy if our national departments are unable to adequately deliver on their mandates.

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