“Ag Pleez Deddy won’t you take us to the fun-fair
We wanna have a ride on the bumper-cars
We’ll buy a stick of candy floss
And eat it on the Octopus
Then we’ll take the rocket ship that goes to Knysna…”
At the ISDF ‘Interaction’ meeting, they said nothing. At least nothing of value that would explain the future of Knysna, the blueprint that may decide the future of South Africa.
Over a poor quality microphone, Municipal Manager Lauren Waring, Mayor Georlene Wolmarans and ISDF director, Dr Chris Mulder, spoke for approximately 30 minutes. They spoke with positivism so that some of the audience clapped at the end…despite us learning nothing at all. A summary would say, “We worked hard, we’re the best qualified and there are going to be interaction Café’s.” If it had been delivered in a nutshell, it would have taken us longer to drink one of those free wines…and the future should be longer than that.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to read the prequels to this blog:
A lady lawyer called Susan Campbell stood up to ask some questions. This was my first time meeting her but, online, i’d already become impressed by her exhaustive work on environmental issues, her passionate safeguarding of Knysna’s natural beauty and the resulting dedication to our town. She is an intelligent woman with valuable input. You’d think that such a person would be respected by those suppose to be guiding our future but exactly the opposite happened which begs the question, “Whose future does the Knysna Municipality truly have at heart?”
This was advertized as an interactive meeting and only minutes before the speakers had spoken much about public participation yet when Susan Campbell stood up to ask some questions, she was refused by Georlene Wolmarans, the DA’s rent-a-mayor for Knysna. This prompted this writer and others to voice our disapproval, saying that we wanted to hear the answers and had questions of our own too. The obvious objection by the public found Chris Mulder, to his credit, heading back to the podium.
Campbell was very polite. She spoke in a calm voice and began by saying that she respected the Mulder family and that her questions were not targeted at them but at long unanswered questions involving the ISDF. At this point, the meeting became chaotic. The Mayor began acting like a spoiled child at a party, shooting comments from the sideline and totally disrupting the meeting. The staff were ordered to pack up which lead to loud noises of more voices, packets and scraping chairs. It was an intentional act of sabotaging public participation. The Knysna-Plett Herald reports that Mulder was told, “Not to entertain them.”
At this point, the meeting collapsed into 2 small groups that were jammed between chairs and bookshelves; Campbell and Mike Maughan-Brown (the Knysna Town Planner); myself and Chris Mulder. People awkwardly jostled to and fro, trying to catch both conversations. I attempted to multitask but had to give up trying to hear what Campbell was saying and focus on a visibly upset, Chris Mulder. Later, it was reported that Campbell has asked excellent questions which Maughn-Brown failed to answer and had ended by telling her, “Take us to court.” Does that sound at all like a Knysna Municipality who cares?
Forcing us into smaller groups is synonymous with what the ISDF intends doing with its so-called, public participatory Connection Café. It’s a simple battle plan that’s been used throughout history: Divide and Conquer. It’s what’s happening in Knysna right now with residents’ associations all over the place who are unable to realize common problems that could be solved better if they shared the weight of complaint. Highly relevant, is that nefarious developers, in cahoots with the Knysna Municipality and politicians from the DA, ANC and COPE, were staking their invalid claim on parts of Knysna. What was happening to those in Brenton and Belvidere was also happening in Hunter’s Home, Rheenendal and Salt River. Building a bridge between common issues so that all share the road is essential to the well-being of Knysna!
There is value in hosting roadshows and conversations with smaller groups but that should be an add-on and not a be-all. Most importantly, there needs to be a mass public meeting where all can hear general questions. There’s no way we can trust the suggestion process if the project has already failed the public’s trust i.e. there are far too many question marks around the tender being awarded to the consortium which includes Marike Vreken, Urban-Econ and CMAI, Mulder’s company.
Despite exhausting details on the subject already (a must read), these are more worries about the morality and intention of the people behind the ISDF:
- Urban-Econ was established in 1985 in by Dr Judex Oberholzer. In 2002, he was fined R180 000 and given a suspended jail sentence for his role in a development debacle involving a R35million fraud that resulted in a former cabinet minister’s son receiving 9 years imprisonment. Don’t forget, as mentioned previously, that the adjudication panel for the tender included, most prominently, the previous manager of Urban-Econ in George, a company that has worked with CMAI, Chris Mulder’s company.
- DJ Environmental Consultants have either pulled out, or been dropped out, of the ISDF consortium. Mulder claims that it because Dudley Janeke, from the company, wasn’t prepared to commit to all the public interaction meetings that were required. That makes no sense at all as DJ Environmental Consultants was part of the planning…and the plan is what won the consortium the ISDF tender award. Additionally, why would he forsake his long-term relationship with Mulder (he is currently working with him on the Crossways project). More importantly, it has been alleged that Dudley Janeke is under allegations of fraud with regards the Princess Vlei development in Cape Town. The DA were involved there too (details of this further on in this blog). The allegations of fraud relate to the independence of the company that conducted the public participation process, Tshukudu Environmental Services (of which Janeke was a Director) and the proposed development company. The allegations are that the two companies shared some of the same directors, raising questions of conflict of interest and non compliance with NEMA as well as fraud or perjury, relating to Janeke’s affidavit. These allegations are being considered by the NPA and the Cape Town City Council has been forced to put the process on hold pending the decision of the NPA. Note that Susan Campbell informed the Knysna Municipality of this on July 14 2013. Janeke was suddenly off the project for reasons that make no sense and he has not responded to 2 emails i’ve sent him.
- Pat Mulder, Chris Mulder’s wife, has replaced Dudley Janeke. I have nothing against Pat and in the only meeting i’ve had with her, about 3 years ago, i gained a positive impression of a strong woman. That’s not the point. CMAI may have stated her other qualifications but that does not account for her as a BEE replacement or the fact that she doesn’t possess the environmental qualifications of her predecessor. That makes her the third Mulder to be involved in the ISDF (their son, Stef, is too). Are there others? Can a family so involved in property development for massive profits be objective when guiding Knysna’s future? It’s also interesting to note that the Municipality’s false representation of what happened at the meeting carried an image header of Pat Mulder with Mayor Georlene Wolmarans.
- Mulder says that the ISDF tender will run at a loss for the consortium. Keeping in mind that the builders of gated communities are not well known for their charity, does that make any sense unless there was something to be gained, in the future, by his company, CMAI, and others? After all, the ISDF will change the boundaries of a town and determine human settlement patterns which runs scarily concurrent with the fact that both Mulder and Maughn Brown (now Town Planner), as developers, had previously tried to change the urban edge which would have gained them favourable laws and reduced rates for their intended developments. Consider that Chris Mulder and Mike Maughn-Brown were upset because their proposed developments for Uitzicht and the Knysna River Reserve (Mike was the planner for the developer) were left outside the edge for urban development i.e. the urban edge. This was the first time an urban edge was determined and the main purpose was to curb urban sprawl and to protect valuable conservation and agricultural areas. Uitzicht was turned down and the Knysna River Reserve got less units than they had applied for. Mulder and Maughn-Brown were both opposed to the proposed and adopted urban edge and Mulder went to great effort to propose his own urban edge that included both developments.
- DA Speaker, Michelle Wasserman, was previously the lawyer for Pezula, a spectacular development which occupies the majority of the famous East Head of Knysna. She was involved in illegally stopping the public access to Noetzie which Pezula was marketing as a private beach. Wasserman is now the councillor for that Ward (note that Conrad Hilton has since gotten involved at Pezula and we’re hoping that they will respect the public right to access of beaches, as required by law). She was one of the clappers at the ISDF ‘Interaction’ meeting.
- After Knysna Municipality refused to help, Susan Campbell submitted a request for information throgh the PAIA (Public Access to Information Act). Lauren Waring, the Municipal Manager, referred her request to Attorney Franz Fisher of Ballans. Presumably acting on his advice she received a response from Melony Paulsen, the legal head of the Municipality, saying that she was not entitled to any of the information requested. Remarkably the same firm of attorneys and legal department were appointed as misnamed ” independent and impartial persons” to deal with all the objections to the ISDF tender.
- The biggest landowners in Knysna are probably Barlow and Steinhoff, a German company whose local subsidiary is PG Bison. Both have been mired in previous controversies with Chris Mulder. The Knysna Municipality entered the controversy when they decided to share costs with PG Bison for Chris Mulder to develop a plan for an industrial area and 500 houses in the countryside of Rheenendal. The Knysna Municipality has refused to answer:
- Why a separate plan, outside of the ISDF was allowed?
- Why CMAI (Mulder’s company), who had a distinct cash injection and knowledge advantage, was allowed to bid, let alone win, the ISDF tender?
- How local companies, CMAI and Marike Vreken, are not the conflict of interest the law regarding the ISDF directly prohibits?
- Why they haven’t helped the poor communities who’ve appealed to them for 8 years to stop PG Bison from forcing them out their forest homes (PG Bison has failed to answer as well).
- Lauren Waring pops up everywhere as the stick in the mud. In the Knysna-Plett Herald she took the immoral path of belittling objectors and lying about their role. She called them a small “a small, yet vocal group of residents” who were “short-sighted and (that this) could have dire implications for the average person on the street” and that the taxpayer would have to pay if they lost the R110 000 000 grant from national government. Waring was using shock tactics and shifting the blame for her intentionally poor handling of the ISDF onto organizations representing thousands of ratepayers. Wendy Dewberry, of the Noetzie Conservancy, pointed out Waring’s error by saying “Knysna residents have the right to object legally, according to Section 49 of the Municipal Supply Chain and we are not a small group. We are mostly official and custodial groups for the environment for Knynsa, conservancies, Knynsa Environmental Forums, civic groups and politicians included. That they are fobbing the objections off in this manner is possibly illegal. Government does not offer funds for a narrow window period, and there have been more qualified tenders which should have been chosen in the interest of Knynsa. By these comments, Ms Waring appears to be under the impression that the people who pay her salary will fall for such inaccuracies, but she should know that we are educated and care significantly about the future of our town. She had much grace from the public over the appalling lagoon debacle which was never accurately reported. Her environmental track record speaks for itself.”
Why am i targeting the DA? Firstly, I DO NOT SUPPORT THE ANC. They have also totally failed Knysna by not acting as an opposition party which makes me worry that there will be handouts in the future. The facts are that the DA are the leaders of Knysna who promised us austerity and transparency yet gave us exactly the opposite. The DA has continuously failed to represent Knysna on the most serious issues affecting our town. They seem to be on the side of big business, at an expense to the majority, which has fuelled the question, “Who is funding them?” It is entirely appropriate to sum up their reign in Knysna as totalitarian.
Knysna and the ISDF are not precedents. In particular, the DA’s Minister Anton Bredell, MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, was an obstruction to the loud will of the people of Princess Vlei in Cape Town who were wanting to protect their natural heritage from a proposed mall the DA supported. Bredell outright lied when he said that he’d never received objections despite community organizations having proof of such. Knysna has experienced this repeatedly. There’s seems to be the attitude that if you lie enough times it will eventually become the truth. Scarily, history has proven that’s true which is why it’s so important that groups such as the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association remind the public of the actions of their leaders. In that case of Princess Vlei, the Hawks have gotten involved and charges of fraud have been laid against the developers.
For other Garden Route fiascoes concerning DA power and greed, read:
- www.knysnakeep.org/the-anc-scores-a-whopper (note that this is under appeal)
I haven’t made my mind up on Chris Mulder. There are members of the public who’ve told me horrible things about the man but so much is clouded in grey that it’s hard to straighten the facts. Admittedly, it makes no sense that he was allowed to build a gated community of 600 homes on an island smack bang in the middle of the estuary which Knysna, a tourist town, is most famous for. Alternatively, i admire the immense vision and, more so, the determination that made the best marina development in South Africa possible. I don’t rule out living there one day. I can’t change the past. I can only play my part to preserve the present and carry its protection into the future.
When Chris Mulder stood before me at the ISDF meeting he was upset. He was constantly raising his voice and for minutes he prodded me in my chest until i pointed out what he was doing and looked around me so as to convey to him that there were witnesses. At that point, he took a breath and calmed down and i’m pleased to say that we eventually got to the point where we could shake hands. My main question to him was how are the public suppose to trust the ISDF process if we don’t trust the awarding of the tender that started it? He would not answer that and insisted that it was the Knysna Municipality’s responsibility to do so. I disagreed, saying that the leader of such an important project does not shirk responsibility but should want to step out from under the stormy cloud so that the ISDF could move happily along. He was at pains to say that he was not benefiting from the ISDF as he’s 70 years old and will be busy with the Crossways project, near PE, for the next 7-8 years. However, Mulder would not state to me, as requested, that his company or his family would not be involved in future developments in Knysna. It was an intense conversation filled with repetition that gained, like the meeting before it, no answers.
I pointed out to Chris Mulder that i had offered him a coffee conversation months previously but that he’d turned it down. He said that it was inappropriate whilst the tender process was ongoing. Ironically, to me, that was the most important time to do so. He said that i was now welcome for coffee anytime. I will soon test that offer and see if he will allow me to bring some civil friends along.
A small note for now, that may become a bigger one later, were 2 women who targeted me separately after the meeting. Madelaine Visagie acted like the professional cheerleader for the ISDF and Mulder team whilst Bianca Currie may take up the roll as public relations officer. One attempted to put words in my mouth whilst the other simply asked relevant questions which were recorded [update – the latter, Bianca Currie, is in fact an independent researcher into the ISDF process. She operates out of NMMU].
It’s been a long read so thanks to you who’ve stuck with it the whole way. Trust me when i say that it took longer to type it than it took you to read it:)
I hope that i proved my main point which is that the Knysna Municipality (in particular, Lauren Waring) and the Democratic Alliance have failed Knysna, have failed us.
The big, resulting question is, “WHO IS RUNNING KNYSNA?”
NB: The following day, i received an email from a member of the public who went to fetch his ISDF interactive registration form that was supposed to be available at the Sedgefield library (one of several locations in the Knysna Municipality). Not only were the forms not there but the staff had no idea what the ISDF was.