Probe into Robben Island ferry 'sabotage' as strike continues

The island has been forced to use outsourced vessels to ferry visitors to the world heritage site due to a dispute with Nehawu.
The island has been forced to use outsourced vessels to ferry visitors to the world heritage site due to a dispute with Nehawu.
Image: Roger de La Harpe

Robben Island Museum (RIM) is investigating a suspected arson attack on one of its ferries that caused a temporary shutdown of island tour services on Thursday.

The island has been forced to use outsourced vessels to ferry visitors to the world heritage site because of a dispute with members of the National Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu).

However, an incident at the museum’s main embarkation point at the V&A Waterfront on Thursday prevented outsourced ferries from docking.

“Unfortunately, there appears to have been possible sabotage with the tampering of one of RIM’s owned vessels that transported staff members from the island at 6.30am to Nelson Mandela Gateway,” island spokesperson Morongoa Ramaboa said in a statement.

“This prevented outsourced vessels from docking to board the 8am and 9am tours. RIM is not anticipating any further delays for the remainder of the day. 

“Given the severity of the incident, the matter will be investigated. In the event that possible sabotage is substantiated, RIM will institute necessary human resources, legal and criminal charges.”

Nehawu members at the museum went on strike this week over several grievances, including unhappiness over a proposed wage increase. Union spokesperson Khaya Xaba said museum managers had yet to meet union members to address their concerns.

“Without any formal negotiations taking place we don’t see any near end to this,” Xaba said.

The union is also calling for the release of a government report into alleged maladministration at the museum. 

The report, commissioned by the arts and culture department, was prompted partly by corruption concerns raised by the Ex Political Prisoners' Association (EPPA). 

EPPA secretary-general Mpho Masemola told TimesLIVE the organisation was engaging with the newly appointed Robben Island Museum board with a view to resolving the impasse. A stakeholder workshop has been proposed for next month.

Eyewitness News on Thursday reported that a group of American students joined the Nehawu picket line at the museum's Waterfront office. The students were due to visit the island but joined the picket instead after talking to workers.

“As US students and tourists, we moved to be part of the workers’ strike because their demands are long overdue," one of the visitors told Eyewitness News. "Despite having tickets, we chose not to tour because we felt it was not ethical to tour a site that commemorates the struggle while the island’s workers continue to struggle,” the student said. 


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