Take a break- Sani Pass development chaos

2008-03-16 00:00

People who love the Drakensberg and the wilderness of the Maluti ranges beyond have every reason to be alarmed by plans to develop the Sani Pass Hotel (SPH).

If the proposals are cause for worry, the process guiding the public discourse is the stuff of clanging alarms.

In a typical development context, the proposals are articulated in a sequential format to assimilate information and invite input.

Not in the case of the proposed SPH re-development though. A series of events and non-events have convinced interested and affected parties that all is not well with the process, which has been met with derision and ridicule.

Consider that the proposed development — 450 themed leisure chalets, houses, mountain lodge and backpackers accommodation on 660 ha of pristine land — was announced as a fait accompli in two tourism trade journals towards the end of last year.

The announcement was made by a PR company on behalf of Red Carpet Leisure, the management company of the SPH, and evidently conflated a refurbishment of existing facilities with the proposed new development.

While assurances have been issued that the travel media will publish the difference between proposed and approved, not much has been forthcoming from the consultancy, Golder Associates, conducting the public participatory process.

Dispatching 20Mbs of e-mails, including a 995 kb missive that the Underberg Himeville Trout Fishing Association wishes to register as an IAP, doesn’t count. Not helping is that some of the e-mails are out of sequence and incomplete.

Part of the problem is that people who attended the public meeting on January 21 in Underberg are none the wiser, especially since the map on exhibit was of a development somewhere in Gauteng!

Even the SA Wildlife and Environment Society are in the dark about proceedings, surprising as Wessa is a registered I&AP on the Agriculture and Environmental Affairs’s Department’s database for all environmental impact assessments in the province.

Hard copies of the report apparently are available at the hotel and the tourism information office in Underberg. As things stand, we know very little of the SPH plans other than a desire by the owners to irrevocably change the face of the southern Drakensberg.

Quite how things will pan out remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that the fate of this wilderness is not in the hands of those who love the mountains enough to care.

We also wonder if this proposal is another test of the integrity of the World Heritage Site declaration of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park?

Sickening rumours

It's a miracle that the provincial Health department has managed to keep a lid on the anger of some very miffed suppliers.

It is understood that some suppliers across the spectrum are reaching the end of their tether about some lax payments, so much so that a series of high-level meetings are planned this week to ward off a potential crisis at provincial hospitals.

It is understood from staff at some hospitals that certain essential services are allegedly in jeopardy, and that the forthcoming Easter weekend may expose some serious shortcomings.

While hospital staff could not be sure as to the reason for the big squeeze, they whispered that dark rumours about gross overspending were doing the rounds.

Rates and rands

More and more anomalies appear to blight the already controversial Msunduzi municipal property valuations.

Why, asked a reader, did the bank raise the insurance on his property from R840 000 to R964 000 if the municipal valuation team apportioned a R440 000 value? Who to believe? he said.

Do as I say …

THE indomitable Bridget Jones of Pronel fame had reason to hang her head in shame during last Tuesday’s thunderous storm.

Having dispensed countless candles to clients, colleagues and others as Pronel’s light-hearted counter to load-shedding, Jones left her personal consignment at the office.

The lapse came to haunt her at the Jones household that night when the lights when out and the candles could not be found.

Last word

Teacher: "Which is more important to us, the sun or the moon?"

Pupil: "The moon."

Teacher: "Why?"

Pupil: "The moon gives us light at night when we need it, but the sun gives us light only in the daytime when we don’t need it."

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