News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Wednesday July 18th 2018

Don’t touch me on my mountain, warn Capetonians

Hunger striker Bronwen Lankers-Byrne (far right) and fellow protesters gather signatures for a petition against the toll plaza and administration buildings on Chapman's Peak Drive. The protest group estimate they have collected about 6 000 signatures so far. Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN

Sustained protest against the building of a R54m two-storey office block on Chapman’s Peak has forced the contractors to sneak on to their own site at night in order to get any work done.

Construction company Murray & Roberts’ efforts to commence building a toll plaza and administrative office block for Chapman’s Peak toll operators Entilini Consortium – in which they hold a stake – have been stymied by protestors camping out in the building’s foundations, chaining themselves to scaffolding and embarking on a hunger strike to prevent the laying of concrete foundations.

It appears the construction company waited until protestors who have held 7am to 7pm vigils since the beginning of the month retired for the night before they went in on Wednesday to pour concrete into pre-prepared moulds.

“I noticed something was different when I arrived this morning,” said committed protestor Bronwen Lankers-Byrne on Thursday morning, “and then I noticed the cement leaking out (of the upright moulds).”

Lankers-Byrne, who was on a 15-day hunger strike until Monday, is a founder member of the Civil Rights Action Group (Crag) opposing the toll plaza building along with the Hout Bay Residents Association.

She had handcuffed herself to scaffolding at the site on Monday in solidarity with Fiona Hinds who had spent five days camping in the site to prevent foundations being laid.

Hinds was arrested on Monday for malicious damage to property but her bail condition that she not return to the site, was dropped by the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

Under advice from her lawyers, Lankers-Byrne uncuffed herself on Monday after she was handed a High Court order prohibiting her from being on site.

This week the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), which governs World Heritage Sites such as Table Mountain National Park, was alerted by environmental campaigner and extreme distance swimmer Lewis Pugh to the province’s plan to build an office block on the South African National Parks (SANParks) land.

Unesco World Heritage Centre Africa Unit Chief, Lazare Eloundou said “South African authorities” had been contacted so Unesco could “get more information in order to take an appropriate action”.

“We are also studying the existing legislative measures protecting Table Mountain National Parks as a World Heritage site,” stated Eloundou.
The public outrage against the development saw about 2 300 people protesting on Chapman’s Peak Drive on January 22, two weeks after the story of the planned toll plaza broke in the Cape Times.

It is possibly the most opposed development in the city, arguably as a result of years of resentment built up since the introduction of a tolling system on the scenic road in 2003.

The resentment over having to pay, currently, R31 to travel one-way between Hout Bay and Noordhoek was not helped by a 30-year deal in which Entilini got paid by the province if earnings from projected traffic flow did not match earnings from actual traffic flow.

Additionally, the private-public partnership contract initiated by then ANC elected Premier, Ebrahim Rasool, allowed Entilini to close the road whenever they deemed it necessary, yet to still be paid the projected earnings over such period out of the public purse.

This “murky deal” has amounted to the province paying about R60m to Entilini thus far, said Transport and Public Works MEC Robin Carlisle.

Carlisle was scathing in his criticism of the 30-year deal he inherited when he took office in 2009 but says the renegotiated contract, which was enabled when construction firm Murray & Roberts bought out Concor’s 55% stake in Entilini, means the province will reclaim that R60m over the remaining 21 years of the contract. It also shifted the power to close the road to his department.

Asked whether Murray & Roberts were DA funders, a question protestors posed in wondering why a cheaper alternative option to new the toll plaza could not have been followed, Carlisle said: “I don’t know. It (the question) didn’t enter my head.”

He is adamant the plans to build the permanent toll plaza and office block are completely above board and all due process, including public participation, have been followed.

He agreed R54m was a large figure which “surprised” him but the independent quantity surveyors’ documents were available for inspection.

Entilini workers, who up until now were still using a shipping container, needed premises and it made financial sense to put Entilini’s administrative offices – currently in Hout Bay itself – as well as all necessary emergency response and other required facilities, in one place.

Running two offices had cost Entilini in the region of R100m over the last eight years. To carry on like that meant it would take much longer for them to recoup their initial upfront costs of “about R160m” and start generating profits and start paying the province their R60m back, he said.

As for building on land belonging to SANParks Transport and Public Works Head of Department, Hector Elliot said a land use management agreement between SANParks and Entilini, which predated current legislation requiring a resolution of Parliament in order to de-proclaim SANParks land, was put in place so Entilini could install catch nets and other protective measures along the slopes above Chapman’s Peak drive.

The legality of this agreement in relation to current legislation could be tested should the Hout Bay Resident’s Association go ahead with threatened litigation. Litigation could be “a good thing” in order to sort out the issue, said Elliot.

However, the portion of SANParks land in question is largely an old quarry with alien vegetation growing on it.

In the meantime, construction in the state-owned road reserve was going ahead amidst continuing protests, including a human chain along the road planned yesterday. – Steve Kretzmann

Tags: Bronwen Lankers-Byrne, Chapman’s Peak, Civil Rights Action Group, Ebrahim Rasool, Entilini Consortium, Fiona Hinds, Hector Elliot, Hout Bay Residents Association, Lazare Eloundou, Lewis Pugh, Murray & Roberts, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), South African National Parks (SANParks), Table Mountain National Park, United Nations Educational, World Heritage Sites, Wynberg Magistrate’s Court

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One Response to “Don’t touch me on my mountain, warn Capetonians”

  1. melior1 says:

    The fact that Wynberg Court dropped the bail does’nt surprise. It’s well known that logistical processes at Wynberg Court are substandard and not fit for purpose.
    There is a major backlog of cases, some adoption cases hark from 1997, at the Childrens Court, headed by Denni Leppain, the Children’s Commmissioner.This is not helped by the staff shortage, only very recently addressed.So deplorable has the situation become that certain child adoption agencies are no longer submitting cases there.The unproffessional and at best slovenly nature of the said commissioner knows no bounds, and her imperious attitude towards clerk staff and clients harks back to the darkest days of apartheid, A sad state of affairs indeed, and over ripe for an indepth expose of the shady dealings, that saw a former magistrate of colour leave after being hounded out after a concerted effort by her caucasian colleagues. If possible avoid at all costs, and deal with almost any other court instead.

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