It’s 1482m² expanse could make hotel developers interested. The size also allows it to be divided into 3 erfs which developed could fetch great returns for investors (currently a house in Buffalo Bay, which could fit on one of these sub-divisions, is on offer for R12million).
Let’s start with the hypocrisy of COPE’s Elrick van Aswegen. In a similar meeting a month before he was not only vehemently opposed to the sale of the property but said he’d oppose all sales of municipal land. He said that he assumed it was because Knysna Municipality was “desperate”. His point falls under the argument that the selling of assets devalues the worth of Knysna which is suppose to belong to the taxpayer whom the government works for.
However, after COPE, along with the ANC, grabbed the unique opportunity (presented by the death of the DA’s Magda Williams) to oppose the 2014/2015 budget, a deal was made. In this deal, part of the money from the sale of Erf 65 would go towards fixing toilets in Hornlee, the area in which Ricky van Aswegen stays. At the latest meeting, Elrick van Aswegen ‘mysteriously’ had no objections to the sale, only how it should be sold.
The other argument, at the previous meeting, was expressed by Ray Barrell who stated that, “We have infrastructure problems and this is a means of getting money to, hypothetically, put into roads.” Louisa Hart agreed with him, saying, “This has been discussed for ages, the matter of selling property to boost infrastructure.”
My notes are blurry here but it was either Stephen de Vries (ANC) or Elrick van Aswegen who then added a but… “The Municipality must determine if there’s future use. There must be a plan. There must be public participation.”
One month later, at the current Governance meeting, not only were there no objections to the sale of the land but no one mentioned “public participation”. That was the second hypocrisy.
Mthobeli Dyantyi and Stephen de Vries (both ANC), then brought up the matter of a letter written to the Knysna-Plett Herald (KPH) 2 weeks earlier that had objected to the sale as it was money that would go to the rest of Knysna and not Buffalo Bay. The Opposition (ANC/COPE) concurred with him that the letter was racist, belittling non-white people whilst ignoring that Buffalo Bay is no longer its own municipality and that Knysna is all of us. Furthermore, the letter writer is ignoring the forced removals of non-whites from that area during apartheid. Worsening matters was that when the KPH afforded Knysna’s DA Mayor, Georlene Wolmarans, the opportunity to respond, she deliberately skipped addressing racism. At this point the meeting got very heated with this being used as an example of the DA ignoring racism for the past 3 years. “Why is the Mayor and DA silent???” Dyanti asked emphatically. “The Council has a responsibility to every citizen in Knysna.”
Ray Barrell then put his foot in the mud when he said, “We all identify with Stephen de Vries’ comments but everyone [referring to the letter writer] has a right to voice their opinion.”
Dyanti erupted in protest with Ray Barrell, as chairman of the meeting, threatening, several times, to have Dyanti removed from chambers. “I will never be quiet on a racial issue,” shouted Dyanti.
Dyanti is correct. The division between white and non-white areas in Knysna is massive. The DA seems to favour rich white people (their objections are entertained far more in Section 80 meetings). It’s a reason why i expect the ISDF tender to eventually be investigated. Conversely, it’s a reason why the poor forest communities haven’t been helped. It’s also a short-sighted view that will damage the town in the long run. The DA avoids sticky issues which is a failure of leadership. We all have to learn to get along with the powers that be helping us to do so.
However, i don’t believe, for a single moment, that Barrell was supporting racism. His mistake was poor wording as he tried to keep the topic of the sale of the property on track.
Part 3, tomorrow, will discuss the debate on the value of the property and how it will be sold. The bigger question should be, “What is the state of Knysna’s financial health?”