Tour guides are so disillusioned with the string of ferry delays and mismanagement over a number of years that some are now advising tourists to avoid the island altogether.

Thousands from all corners of the globe make the trip annually to where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for more than two decades.

 Since last week, workers have carried out their duties at a slower pace, resulting in ferry operations to and from the island being delayed for hours - causing a number of angry tourists to cancel trips.

The delays are among a string of problems, including broken ferries and financial issues and mismanagement, which have plagued the island for years.

On Tuesday, the 1pm ferry was postponed for hours, then the trip was cancelled at 5.30pm after tourists had boarded, because by the time they would have reached the island it would have been dark.

As tourists waited to hear about the ferry, Mashatile met Robben Island Museum chief executive Sibongiseni Mkhize and staff members at the Nelson Mandela Gateway.

They met after striking Robben Island Museum employees, members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), embarked on a go-slow demanding that the museum’s acting senior human resources manager, Lesiba Ramoroka, be suspended.

The Nehawu members accused him of, among other things, unfair labour practice, failing to set up committees and not carrying out his duties properly. Ramoroka was put on special leave.

On Tuesday, after the meeting, Mashatile said he was yet to decide on the island’s management. “I came here to listen to the problems,” he said, before rushing off to catch a plane. Mashatile referred questions to Mkhize.

 Mkhize said: “On March 23 I received a petition from workers complaining they wanted (Lesiba) dismissed. He was put on special leave pending an investigation.”

He said he and Mashatile would consult throughout the night to decide what action should be taken against Lesiba.

Mkhize said they expected to know by Wednesday whether Lesiba, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting, would be suspended. “The workers want this because if he’s suspended he won’t have some privileges, like a company cellphone and access to a laptop,” he said.

He said it was unusual for Mashatile to get directly involved with operations. “But because it’s Robben Island, it’s so iconic, this time it’s understandable,” he said. He hoped workers would not continue with the go-slow on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a sign at the Nelson Mandela Gateway’s entrance said: “To All Visitors. Due to industrial action your tour departure, arrival or duration might be affected.”

Martin Fine, a tour operator for Capefuntours CC, said tourists were being advised not to go to Robben Island. “We know the (ferry) service is erratic … But there is no notification. Tourists must just go there and find out. The tourism industry is advising people not to go to Robben Island. We are trying to make Cape Town a world-class destination, but this is unforgivable,” he said.

 Tourists at the Nelson Mandela Gateway on Tuesday milled around waiting for the 1pm ferry, which was later cancelled. When Lars Gary, of Sweden, heard that the trip would be delayed because of the go-slow, he had his ticket refunded. This was before the trip was cancelled.

 “A return ticket to South Africa would be a small compensation,” Gary said to clerks when getting his refund.

Earlier, Belgian tourist Ingo De Schrijuer, who was in Cape Town for the third and final day of his holiday, waited for the ferry with his wife and two children. “It’s a pity because Nelson Mandela is an icon beyond South Africa,” he said.

Schrijuer said he had bumped into other Belgian tourists who had bought tickets and waited for the ferry all of Monday. They had told him not to bother trying to get to the island.

Catherine Lavies, from Holland, said when she asked why the ferry was late, Robben Island Museum workers had replied: “Because it is delayed.” They refused to explain further.




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