SANParks to hand over Chappies land for offices

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ct toll_8440 INLSA A container is removed from the site on Chapman's Peak where the toll company, Entilini, plans to build its headquaters. Photo: Michael Walker.

Melanie Gosling

Environment Writer

IN a move that could set a precedent, SanParks said yesterday it would de-proclaim a piece of Table Mountain National Park on Chapman’s Peak Drive to allow a private toll company to build its luxury offices.

SanParks chief executive officer David Mabunda told the Cape Times that because the land, just over 2 100m2, had been used during construction of Chapman’s Peak drive, it had “no significant biodiversity value, and can be excised for purposes of developments that are in the public interest, given the well-known problem of land shortage in Cape Town”.

Mabunda said “the de-proclamation process of this piece of land is now under way in terms of the Protected Areas Act 57 of 2003”.

He said he believed the Western Cape government, which had altered the road reserve to include a chunk of national park so the office could be built for the toll company Entilini, was “acting in the interest of the public and country with this development, hence our full support for the development”.

Mabunda’s move has drawn a shocked response from members of the public, who say this will set a precedent.

Melissa Fourie, director of the Centre for Environmental Rights, described SanParks’ decision as “bizarre”.

“When I first read about this development I thought it was an April Fool’s joke, especially coming after the big issue over Oudekraal. How do they justify it politically and morally? What benefit do we as the public get from it? What is their justification for putting this thing up on Chapman’s Peak? Shortage of land? Oh please! The precedent SanParks has set is that they will have to justify in future why they don’t de-proclaim other pieces of national parks for private use – and how will they do that?” Fourie said.

Terry Wyner of the Civil Rights Action Group said yesterday: “I am shocked. I can’t believe our custodians of national parks can say: ‘Oh well, it’s useless land, it can go’. And one of the reasons they give is shortage of land in Cape Town? Hellooo. They can’t give it to the people of Hangberg on the other side, but they can give it to a private company on Chapman’s Peak. The point they’re missing

is that this is state land, for public use, and they’re giving it to a private company.”

He said Murray & Roberts’ mission statement talks about commitment to sustainability and the environment, “but what’s happening here is about environment. It’s huge. I’m devastated.”

Murray and Roberts is the senior partner of the Entilini Concession company.

Asked to comment on the public outcry yesterday and the fact that lawyers acting for residents say construction on the land is unlawful until Parliament has de-proclaimed it, Murray & Roberts spokesman Ed Jardim said: “We believe that due process has been followed and, as part of the concession agreement, Entilini has been given the required and lawful approval to construct the operations office on this site.”

Mabunda said yesterday that the toll gate project had gone through an environmental impact assessment (EIA) during which the public were given an opportunity to “state their side of the story”.

He said the then environment minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, had approved the development in 2008.

In 2009 his successor, Buyelwa Sonjica, had approved site plans for the buildings.

Penny Brown of the Hout Bay Residents’ Association said yesterday Mabunda’s move would “set a bad precedent and encourage SANParks to de-proclaim bits of national parks for all sorts of reasons”.

However, Patrick Dowling of the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA said: “To the best of our knowledge the issue of a de-proclamation or withdrawal of part of the park to accommodate a tolling booth and office block was not comprehensively dealt with in the EIA process that Dr Mabunda refers to.

“Considering the very high public interest, the World Heritage status of Table Mountain National Park and the distinct socio-environmental nature of site, this aspect should not have been neglected,” Dowling said.

“Irrespective of the biodiversity value of the area envisaged for withdrawal from the Table Mountain National Park, such a course of action must not be taken lightly.

“There are probably thousands of potentially ‘less worthy’ spots in the country’s parks that could be proposed for de-proclamation if enough precedent was established.”

He said the Protected Areas Act had clear objectives.

These included the promotion of sustainable utilisation for the benefit of the public in a manner that would preserve the ecological character and promote participation of local communities in management of protected areas.


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Anonymous, wrote

IOL Comments
10:54pm on 13 January 2012
IOL Comments

The Toll road was a most grotesque "fCK-YOU" gesture to the South African public. Everyone was against it - as they are to the new Tolling system in Gauteng. The Toll Gate on Chapmans peak showed the truth of what a public participation really means in south Africa. It means ZERO! A public participation process in South Africa DESPERATELY NEEDS A REVAMP! For today it is just a tick in the box ....on a corporate "to do" list for what ever obscene idea any company wants,- why not privatize the Kruger park too and Toll the beaches and and privatize all public amenity from parks to beaches to beautiful scenic roads! here is the line??. How was it ever conceivably possible that a TOLL GATE could ever have been built on chapmans peak ? A hall of mirrors and smokescreens - until a public process means something - South Africans are not really citizens of South Africa. NEMA means nothing!

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:05am on 13 January 2012
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@anonymous You must be making this all up - provincial bosses allowed to own a share in the builder of Chappies, and the World Bank debarring McMillan - what kind of readers do you take us for?

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Anonymous, wrote

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08:53am on 13 January 2012
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Why did Murray & Roberts use a pseudonym? Given the nature of the original agreement, why has the province not done what the World Bank did to McMillan publishers - debar the company from doing business with the province for a number of years. That is one hell of an effective method to deter and resolve questionable business methods.

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Anonymous, wrote

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08:14am on 13 January 2012
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@Anonymous You are talking nonsense. There is no way that provincial employees can own part of a supplier. The DA would scream murder.

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Anonymous, wrote

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08:09am on 13 January 2012
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@Anonymous 07:55am Do you mean to say that the province's for example, Head of Building Works can own shares in, say, the builder of the thing Haws and Inglis? I think that you are talking nonsense - no government could be that 'in your face' corrupt.

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Anonymous, wrote

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08:03am on 13 January 2012
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The landowner appears not to have been party to the EIA. Maybe publish the ROD and consultant's report? (Maybe unearth the original EIA and reconcile it with that which has been built - the entire thing from day one may not comply - do NOT rely on politicians to do this 'homework').

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Anonymous, wrote

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07:55am on 13 January 2012
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The swift and focused public officials' responses raises a peripheral issue concerning the DA legislation allowing provincial employees to own shares in suppliers to the province (hard to believe, but true). Are any provincial employees connected to concultants or others involved in this matter?

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Duncan Gohl, wrote

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07:15am on 13 January 2012
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Very few letters? Where is everyone?

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Anonymous, wrote

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07:24pm on 12 January 2012
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SANPARKS is the worst thing that has happened to table mountain. See www.coolforests.org.za This chapmans toll gate SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED! Entillini is disgusting. Chapmans peak is probably the most beautiful drive in cape town,- Chapmans peak should be handed back to the people - where in the world would a Toll gate be allowed at the most beautiful drive on the country - its outright thievery and now to build there ?? its insane. SANPARKS HAD NO REAL PUBLIC PROCESS regarding the forests on table mountain. I had direct experience with them. It was a huge rip off!!! what Mabunda wants - Mabunda gets... irrelivant what the people feel!

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Unsightly buildings, wrote

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05:19pm on 12 January 2012
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What operations are planned for this office? What is it that this company has to do in this location, that an office lower down in Hout Bay could not serve? Must a building be located ON the world famous Chapmans Peak drive? Think Disa Towers on the face of the mountain, see what happens when Gov't grants land... enough said! Thanks Martinus..

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Random Angler, wrote

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12:12pm on 12 January 2012
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ok, now lets start beach vehicle access de-proclaiming process for beaches that have no 'significant bio-diversity' value based on the balance of FACTUAL proof that any beach has 'significat bio-diversity' value.

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