Contractors sneak on to Chapman’s Peak after dark

2012-02-25 16:16

Contractors building a R54 million office block on Cape Town’s picturesque Chapman’s Peak Drive sneaked on to their own site after dark this week to start work on the controversial project.

Anger over the building has seen protesters camping in its foundations, chaining themselves to scaffolding and, in one case, embarking on a two-week hunger strike.

Construction company Murray & Roberts is building a toll plaza and administrative office block for Chapman’s Peak toll operators Entilini Consortium – in which it holds a stake.

The protesters have held 12-hour vigils each day since the beginning of the month.

It appears Murray & Roberts waited until the protesters had left for the night on Wednesday before moving in to pour concrete into preprepared moulds.

“I noticed something was different when I arrived this morning,” said protester Bronwen Lankers-Byrne on Thursday.

“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 opposing the toll plaza building along with the Hout Bay Residents’ Association.

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

Hinds was arrested on Monday for malicious damage to property and ordered not to return to the site.

The Wynberg Magistrates’ Court dropped this condition when Hinds appeared there on Thursday.

At her lawyers’ urging, Lankers-Byrne uncuffed herself on Monday after she was handed a High Court order prohibiting her from the site.

Protesters were planning to form a human chain on the construction site today.

Public outrage at the development saw more than 2 000 people protesting on Chapman’s Peak Drive on January 22, two weeks after the story of the planned toll plaza broke in the local media.

Chapman’s Peak has been a political hot potato since the introduction of a tolling system on the scenic road in 2003.

It currently costs R31 to travel one way between the suburbs of Hout Bay and Noordhoek.

Then premier Ebrahim Rasool initiated a private-public partnership with Entilini, which allowed the operator to:

» Be paid by the provincial government if earnings from projected traffic flow did not match earnings from actual traffic flow; and

» Close the road whenever it wanted to, while still being paid full projected earnings during the closures.
This “murky deal” had already seen the province paying about R60 million to Entilini, said Western Cape 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.

However, he said the renegotiated contract that was enabled when Murray & Roberts bought out Concor’s 55% stake in Entilini meant the province would reclaim its R60 million over the remaining 21 years of the contract.

It also shifted the power to close the road to his department.

He was adamant that plans to build the permanent toll plaza and office block were completely above board and all due process, including public participation, had been followed.

Entilini’s employees currently occupy a shipping container on Chapman’s Peak, while their administrative offices are in Hout Bay.

Carlisle said running two offices had cost Entilini about R100 million over the past eight years, and streamlining their operations into one place

would mean the company could start generating profits more quickly and begin paying the province back.
This week the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), which governs World Heritage Sites such as Table Mountain National Park, was alerted to the province’s plan to build the office block on the South African National Parks land.

Lazare Eloundou, Unesco World Heritage Centre Africa unit chief said: “South African authorities (had been contacted so Unesco could) get more information in order to take appropriate action.”

Said Eloundou: “We are also studying the existing legislative measures protecting Table Mountain National Parks
as a World Heritage site.”

– West Cape News


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