Photo: Matthew Jordaan


Cape Town - The recognition of Table Mountain as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature was one of the reasons for the cableway’s record number of visitors – 855 000 – in 2013.

“This campaign has certainly created top-of-mind awareness for Table Mountain and Cape Town, not only in South Africa but worldwide. We have featured in hundreds of travel shows and magazines – all free marketing that Cape Town can’t afford to pay for,” said Sabine Lehmann, managing director of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.

Lehmann was responding to an article by Glenn Babb, a former deputy director-general of Foreign Affairs, in which he compared the New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign and the World Design Capital designation to a 419 scam where money was paid upfront with little return.

He said the New 7 Wonders competition had been organised by a private organisation that “suckered” cities into voting by SMS. The income generated by these SMSes went to a Swiss-based company that “did not have to reveal its balance sheet”.

But Lehmann said the New 7 Wonders Foundation had been upfront about the SMS model and that the money was used to work on its legacy projects. Half of the income generated went to local cellphone companies as their fee, she said.

“Even becoming a World Heritage site is costly and there are annual fees involved.”

She said the six other Wonders of Nature sites had recorded a remarkable growth in visitor numbers.

Babb also questioned the value of Cape Town’s World Design Capital designation, saying it was offering “ephemeral rewards to us who are paying for it”.

Babb said the cost to benefit ratio of the World Design Capital was “horrific” and that there were few “civic-minded design plans” in the official programme of projects and events.

Ratepayers were being “fleeced for minimal, if any return”, making it “more scandalous than the Cape Town logo and doubtless more costly”.

He criticised the website, with its “gloopy and impenetrable” prose, and said the official projects ranged from the “frivolous” to the overly-obvious. Few of them would leave a lasting heritage in the city, he said.

But Priscilla Urquhart, media manager for the implementing company Cape Town Design NPC, said she would welcome Babb’s input on the World Design Capital programme.

She said Babb had never been to any of the meetings or events, or engaged with the team about its plans and policies.

Urquhart said the Cape Town Design NPC and the City of Cape Town had been open about their costs and expenditure. Babb’s reference to a team of 18 working on the World Design Capital programme was incorrect, as there were only 12 full-time staff. She said the city had budgeted R60-million for the year, of which R40m would be used for the Cape Town Design NPC.

The City of Cape Town has indicated that it will respond to Babb’s allegations on Wednesday. - Cape Argus