Paternoster bills itself as a picturesque sleepy seaside village where you can enjoy a quiet weekend and eat good seafood.
What is really is, is a hellhole of petty crime, corruption, exploitation and poaching.
A few years ago a few of us had a weekend spoilt by a burglary. Trying to get cops to investigate (and follow the clear trail of clues that we showed them) was futile and we were subsequently told by several people that since the local fishermen’s quotas have been reduced they’ve turned to crime and drugs. The mafia that controls the poaching is a menace and even the cops are terrified of them. The cops are not even based in the village but are in the next town.
When I had to go there this week with clients it was my first trip back and I was looking forward to it; I wanted to be proved wrong about the toxicity of this little town because everyone raves about how cute and lovely it is. I thought things had improved – after all, intelligent people are loving it, right?
It is worse than ever.
Despite the crayfish season being closed there were poachers selling them all over the village. My guesthouse hosts told me that petty crime has soared but local holiday accommodation owners and greedy agents refuse to speak of it (we already experienced this a few years ago). They also told me of houses being built on the beach, on the watermark which means they will one day wash away, and fishermen access to the beach is being closed off so they, the fishermen, creep in at night and destroy all the day’s construction. Who approves these projects?
There is still no police station, not even a satellite office, and no patrols. Attempts to get the municipality to address this has met with threats from the mafiosi who control the poaching and most people have backed off as a result of fear for their properties. I heard of kitesurfers being harassed/chased off the beach by gangs in bakkies. To put it bluntly, there is no law and order whatsoever. If socially-conscious people boycotted the village by no longer going there, the locals would be quick to band together to effectively deal with the crime and corruption.
Paternoster is one of the last surviving fishing villages where the fishermen live in their original houses cheek by jowl with holiday makers. But this is not lasting because they are made offers on their homes that they cannot refuse, they then buy a house in the next town where they can get work, or not, and soon find themselves unable to pay rates and taxes. Their new homes are repossessed and they are worse off than ever. A 5 star boutique hotel at over R3000 a night is next to the poorest of the poor who cannot afford a loaf of bread, of course the hotel has tight 24/7 security.
I was glad this time to be staying slightly out of town on a hill, far from the crime, but my seafood supper left a bitter taste and I won’t be back in a hurry.
There were DA election posters all over town promising jobs. They could start by installing an honest council.
I took no photos of Paternoster this week – these are from the previous visit.