Whale Coast Conservation presents memorandum to Premier Zille.

At the meeting December 7, 2018 with Western Cape Premier Zille, MPP Mnqasela and Executive Mayor Coetzee at the Overstrand Municipality main offices, Rob Fryer, Chairperson of Whale Coast Conservation, was one of two groups, along with Overstrand Unite that presented a memorandum.

Below is the full text of the memorandum that Rob presented.

Recent civil unrest in the Overstrand has exposed the failure of the Overstrand Municipality (OM) to plan according to Western Cape Provincial spatial plans and guidelines; the OM continues to plan unilaterally and implement plans that are contrary to the wishes of the community at large. An open letter sent by Mr Rob Fryer on 17 November 2018 to Mr Masizole Mnqasela (attached) following a meeting of concerned citizens highlighted the ways in which the OM has failed the Overstrand community. No response has as yet been received to this letter. Please note that Whale Coast Conservation (WCC) supports this letter.

In addition to the letter referred to, WCC places on record the following serious concerns regarding the modus operandi of the OM. These illustrate that the OM has arrogated power to itself over the Overstrand Council and is thus able to disregard public participation and public opinion on critical issues. These concerns include:

  1. Irregular appointment of the municipal manager and senior management echelon i.e. directorsThe Municipal Systems Act No 32 of 2000 paragraph (6) (a) stipulates that “The employment contract for a municipal manager must …be for a fixed term of employment not exceeding a period ending two years after the election of the next council of the municipality.” Paragraph (7) extends this to apply also to managers reporting to the municipal manager. Continued employment of the municipal manager is subject to satisfactory performance against performance objectives and timeframes contained in a separate performance agreement concluded annually with the executive mayor. The continued employment of managers reporting to the municipal manager is also subject to them achieving performance standards set annually in performance agreements between them and the municipal manager.However, the incumbent municipal manager and managers reporting to him have, on their own recommendation, been appointed by Council until retirement age. This was done at a special Council meeting called for 18:00 on 20 December 2010. Performance agreements for these managers will not address performance issues in the manner envisaged because the standards are proposed by the incumbents themselves without critical public scrutiny.

    The senior management echelon is thus accountable only to itself. The implications of this are obvious and underpin most of the problems experienced in the area.

  2. Lip service is paid to the public participation process by senior management
    The Municipal Systems Act No.32 of 2000 paragraph 55. (1)(a)(iii) stipulates that”…the municipal manager, subject to the policy directions of the municipal council, is responsible and accountable for the formation and development of an…accountable administration that is responsive to the needs of the local community to participate in the affairs of the municipality.”The OM municipal manager has indeed maintained a ward committee system that is compliant administratively with the paragraph 72 of the Municipal Structures Act No.117 of 1998. However, meaningful public participation has been undermined. The public participation process for projects that have been decided on by the OM is uniformly inadequate. The system has been used largely as a channel to selectively disseminate information from the administration to representatives of civil society organisations.The OM must be directed to engage in genuine public participation.

     

  3. The IDP and SDF are prepared by the administration and consultants and do not reflect the wishes of the Overstrand communityThe contents of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and Spatial Development Framework (SDF) are formulated by the administration and do not reflect policy deliberated on, understood, and decided by Council. Public comment on the contents of these crucial documents is treated dismissively by the OM. As a result, the IDP and SDF do not reflect the wishes of the Overstrand community, but those of an administration that is not accountable to the public it serves. No more than lip service has been paid throughout the development of the Overstrand’s IDP and SDF to guidelines provided by the provincial government.The IDP and SDF should undergo a complete review and a real public participation process.
  4. Zone scheme regulations for protected areas are not consistent with national legislation, nor with the provincial zone scheme modelThe Overstrand zone scheme regulations for protected areas differ fundamentally from the model provided to municipalities by the provincial government. They aim to materially reduce the intended level of protection afforded to protected areas by the National Environmental Management Act: Protected Areas (NEM:PAA). Although this was pointed out during the public participation process to the Overstrand Infrastructure and Planning Department, this input was ignored and no justification was given for its action.The OM must be directed to align its zone scheme regulations for protected areas with environmental legislation and the provincial zone scheme model.
  5. Municipal Planning Tribunal does not comply with legislationThe composition of the Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) does not comply with the
    requirements of paragraph 36(1) of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act No.16 of 2013, which requires that the MPT must consist of (a) officials in the full time service of the municipality; and (b) persons appointed by the municipal council who are not officials and who have (relevant and specified) knowledge and experience. The regulations further amplify these to stipulate that all members of the tribunal must have knowledge and expertise in spatial planning, land use management and land development.Members of the OM MPT are the direct subordinates of the municipal manager and one
    provincial official. Several of these directors have no expertise in spatial planning or land use management or development. There is no non-governmental or community representation despite applications from eminently qualified persons. No member has environmental knowledge or expertise. Paragraph 38(3) states that should the municipality have an interest in the outcome of deliberations by the MPT the members affected should recuse themselves. In the OM MPT this would leave only the provincial official – way below the numbers required in the Act for a meeting.

    The municipal planning tribunal should be disbanded and re-established in compliance with the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act No.16 of 2013 and associated regulations.

  6. Proposed CBD Bypass RoadThe OM Department of Infrastructure and Development initiated the planning by the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works of a “CBD bypass” road through the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. This has caused a community uproar. The proposed road is not wanted, has been shown by transport experts to be unnecessary, is against the recommendations of the OM’s own Overstrand Transport Study, and has been objected to by CapeNature and all environmental organisations within the Overstrand. Despite the public outcry, the OM has refused to present the proposal to Council for debate and despite the substantial dossier of objections the OM continues in its efforts to persuade the provincial department to authorise this massive waste of public funds. This illustrates the complete lack of responsiveness by the administration to the needs of the local community to participate in the affairs of the municipality.The EIR for the proposal was rejected by the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning. Work on the proposed CBD bypass road proposal should be stopped forthwith.
  7. Irregular/unprocedural extension of the urban edgeThe greater Hermanus urban edge was extended between the 2013/14 and the 2014/5 SDF published in the IDP documents to incorporate agricultural land between Hawston and Benguela Cove, currently undergoing environmental impact assessment. This extension was not made known other than by changing the line showing the urban edge on maps in the SDF. It was not raised in the Council’s planning portfolio committee meetings, the ward committee meetings, the Overstrand Municipal Advisory Forum, or in council meetings, nor was the provincial MEC consulted on the extension.The change in the urban edge is highly irregular and should not be approved without proper public participation.

     

  8. Questionable planning causes environmental destructionAfter considerable public objection to the selling of the Checkers site to developers for a
    shopping centre, it was agreed that the development would incorporate an element of
    affordable housing to assist in community integration. This did not happen; instead, the
    Schulphoek land was sold for a paltry sum to the same developer for this purpose. After some years of inaction advertisements for an upmarket development on the site caused great concern and the site has been overrun by disaffected persons who are currently destroying the milkwood forest on the site in order to erect shacks. Milkwood is a protected species but neither the OM nor the developer have taken any action to protect the forest, which is a legal obligation. The developer has expressed his willingness to sell the site back to government at a market related price. Questionable planning decisions and the inept handling by the OM of the resultant volatility are directly responsible for the destruction of a priceless environmental heritage site.

The issues outlined above have serious implications for the conservation, preservation and integrity of the natural environment of the Overstrand – and by extension, of community cohesion. The economy of this area is wholly dependent on the responsible and accountable management of its environment.

The OM has demonstrated a consistent willingness to subvert the sustainable care of the
environment in pursuit of questionable planning. It has not however demonstrated that it has the capacity to cope with the levels of public dissatisfaction with this approach that are now clearly evident in the area.

A competent mediator, who is credible to all parties, should be appointed to mediate between representatives of all interest groups in the community and the OM to resolve the large number of grievances against the OM. Failure to do so is likely to see a continued slide into disrespect for law and order and result in a state of anarchy and rampant crime.

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