Dear Reader: Democracy in action & Cape Point for Point

Democracy in action

Democracy, to state the obvious to anyone over the age of 18, is not a perfect form of government. But it is one designed to keep most people happy most of the time. At worst, it is guaranteed to give voters the government that they deserve. It is openly competitive, more responsive to change and geared to compromise.

But as in any other form of government, even in a democracy power corrupts. Almost inevitably, it seems. Democratic changes of government are designed to ensure that the corrupt do not become too entrenched, too powerful, allowing their self-serving ambitions to grow too great. There are good reasons for seeing Nkandla as a signpost to Harare.

At least, a change of government allows a new set of hogs a turn at the feeding trough.

Democracy functions best when everyone actively participates in the process.

All that to persuade you to vote. By voting, you not only advance the cause of the party you think best represents your views and will best serve your needs, you make the parties you don’t support think again, perhaps reassess their position. But not voting, all you do is ensure you get the government you deserve.

My view? Anyone who votes ANC this time round is a fool. If you don’t much like the DA either, vote for one of the minority parties. Many of their representatives – Bantu Holomisa, Mosiuoa Lekota, Pieter Mulder – have made important and constructive contributions to intelligent debate both inside Parliament and elsewhere.

And Mamphela Ramphele, despite her unhappy vacillations, could bring a touch of class to the House. There is no such thing as a “wasted” vote. For three decades just one woman, Helen Suzman, was able to keep the ideals of liberal democracy alive in South Africa. Lest we forget.

Any Noseweek reader who fails to vote on 7 May is guilty of a serious dereliction of duty. Do better: volunteer your assistance in the campaign to mobilise voters. Invite a friend to join you in the queue at the polling station.

Cape Point for Point

The uproar that has developed “south of the mountain” – Table Mountain – triggered by the development ambitions of Cape Point Vineyards’ owner Sybrand van der Spuy – highlighted in April’s Noseweek – appears to have helped bring matters to a climax – and a possible resolution, at least for now.

It also brought Van der Spuy to Noseweek’s offices for a three-hour discussion. Our story had largely been told from the conservationist point of view. We make no apology for that. But, Van der Spuy explained, quite apart from not fairly acknowledging the advantages of development, the conservationists we quoted had often got their facts wrong. For that we do need to apologise.

Taken through his criticism and complaints, paragraph by paragraph, made for an instructive afternoon. The full list is on Noseweek’s website, at the foot of the story in nose174 in the comments.

A few examples paint the picture: “Although he initially applied for permits, the applications were turned down, so he ‘simply stopped applying’,” said the Noseweek story.

Van der Spuy’s response:  “False. All my eight Lupo (Land Use Planning Ordinance) applications have been approved. I had to appeal many conditions set to the different approvals. An ‘events’ application was initially rejected but approved on appeal. I have submitted an application for everything I do.” 

Nose174: “…he’s been known to use the developers’ favourite race trick: stop opposing my commercial plans or I’ll put sub-economic housing here.”

Van der Spuy: “Without foundation. I’ve offered a portion of land to the city for low-cost housing. It had nothing to do with any application. They thought the land unsuitable. I still disagree.”

Nose174: “I’ll tell the poor you’re depriving them of jobs and I’ll arrange for them to protest outside your property.”

Van der Spuy: “All my applications involve the creation of jobs. The effect of objections and delays has been to postpone the creation of jobs.”

Nose174: “Van der Spuy is equally firm with officialdom. In 2012, after the city issued an order that he stop hosting certain events at his estate, he sent a defiant email to officials: ‘Be advised we will not comply with the attached notice as we do not believe our activities are unlawful… I have …alerted you that we have suffered damages regarding your actions and intend to claim it jointly and severally from you.'”

Van der Spuy: “We were being clear with our intentions, it was not a threat.”

Nose174: “There is now even talk of Kirstenbosch-style concerts, 12 a year.”

Van der Spuy: “I have notified neighbours that I wish to apply for 12 charity concerts a year. We raised R450,000 with the approved concert in December. The money is applied to feed more than 400 children daily. I fund the costs of the event, the gross gate goes to charity. One objector said: ‘It is not my problem these people are poor. I wish to sleep in peace.' The concerts would end at 21h00."

Nose174: (Quoting complaining neighbour) “This market... has a profoundly detrimental effect on the daily life of its neighbours. Noise levels produced by thousands of people partying …from so called ‘charity’ concerts…”

Van der Spuy: “We only had 14 objectors to the market – 1,350 people signed a petition in favour of it and 2,000 – 3,000 attended; they vote with their feet! About 56% of visitors are from the area. Neag (Noordhoek Environmental Action Group) has only about 40 members."

Nose174: “He sent an email to the [Council] Spelum committee... with a show of defiance: ‘I wish to alert you beforehand that we have commenced the erection of buildings... to this end please find attached a legal opinion from [attorneys] Werksmans...’”

Van der Spuy: “The Werksmans letter simply said the city could not hold up the process because of alleged illegal structures. Lupo states the only consideration is desirability. Contraventions of building rules are dealt with in other legislation.”

Nose174: (Quoting Van der Spuy) “I alerted the council that I was going to proceed with activities regardless.”

Van der Spuy: “Note the context: I said if they exceeded the legally prescribed timelines for dealing with my application, I would do so. About 70 employees depend on the application... [another] application... caters for another 70 employees... I would rather explain my commencement of activities to a judge than let 140 people be unemployed… in RSA each employed person supports 10 people... thus 1,400 people would go to bed hungry if I curtailed my activities.”

Nose174 reported that Neag had asked the city to bring a civil action against Van der Spuy for a demolition order, and that the city seemed to be “up for it” …but six months later Van der Spuy had the last word: “I have not heard from the city.”

A week after nose174 appeared, about 100 Noordhoek residents, both the “lentil munchers” and the “looters”, including Van der Spuy and most of his main antagonists, gathered to air their differences and float compromise solutions and peace pacts. There were offers to call off litigation all around.

An older, wiser resident summed up the situation: The problem is that the ‘developers’ in the valley (and their followers) have a mindset that views economic activity (some would say greed, conspicuous consumption, unsustainable exploitation, unbridled hedonism, whatever) as the be-all and end-all of life itself. The ‘environmentalists’ on the other hand are all for the preservation and conservation of Noordhoek as of old – an under-developed peri-urban area without street lights in which commercialism is limited and conservancy holds sway.

Rare leopard toads hop, horses thrive, children play, dogs get walked, waves get surfed and commercialism is kept at bay.

It seems that the majority prefer turning a semi-rural agrarian idyll into a shop-till-you-drop mini-Hout Bay.

The Editor

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Submitted by : David Kaye on 2014-04-25 11:06:07
I believe the "old timer" has the conflict in Noordhoek, summed up perfectly.
Neither side is right or wrong... It's just a life view, and in my opinion there should be sustainable development allowed, with due consideration to keeping this within reasonably acceptable bounds.
I had a personal experience in this regard about 18 years ago, in that same area, when I had the idea to create a world class golf resort alongside Long Beach, Kommetjie. In fact, to restore and upgrade already stressed wildlife and flora as a core piece of the planning.
Although we would have done this is a very environmentally safe way, with the WWF stamp of approval, there were immediate threats of legal action from so call "environmentalists" to stop ANY development.
It's a question of balance... Where do we start and where do we stop?
Progressive actions done in an intelligent and considerate way, must be the way forward... Blocking progress, just for the sake of it, serves no purpose other then satisfying those that live in the past and see no good in progress however carefully and perfectly applied.


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