Sunday, April 8, 2018


Dear Cape Town Ratepayers,

          Here we go again. Having proved conclusively that a web of nets erected to keep the sand in place over an old rubbish dump has been a hopeless failure the Council is putting up even more of them. The dump, closed more than 30 years ago, is in the middle of a 19 ha site that consists of mainly sand dunes.
          The Council is repeating what it has done at the beginning of every year since 2016. Only this time an even larger section of the dunes next to the Witsands surfing beach not far from Cape Point is being covered with these rows of nets.
          Officials seem unconcerned that they’ll soon get flattened or buried in the sand by the gale force winds that are endemic to the area.
          In its efforts to ensure that none of the remaining rubbish (plastic and other non biodegradable material) gets washed into the sea during the winter rainy season, which happened many years ago, the Council has spent something like R7-million in the last 12 years.

          Even though we are in the midst of the worse drought anybody can remember the Council upped its wasteful spending on the site from 2016 onwards, blowing about double the R500 000 average that had been splurged in previous years.
The waste of money gets worse and worse. It just goes on and on. My efforts over a period of more than two years to get the Mayor Patricia de Lille to put a stop to this have proved fruitless.
          On 26 June 2017 I lodge a complaint about this with the office of the Public Protector and I got an acknowledgement a few days later. It said that my complaint would be “assessed to establish whether the law allows us to investigate your complaint. As soon as the process is complete we shall revert to you and advise you accordingly.”
          I have yet to be “advised accordingly” although I was asked to provide further proof of my allegations in addition to what I gave in my original evidence. I then sent links to my various posts on the subject as well as photographs etc.
          But if Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane the Public Protector keeps complaining that she hasn’t got enough money to investigate the big crooks properly what is the chance of my complaint ever being finalised?   
          This never ending waste is particularly galling at a time when the Council has drastically increased the price of water as it badly needs money because of the crippling draught. In addition it is proposing massive hikes, some as high as 26%, on all services charges for ratepayers. These are way above the inflation rate.
On the other side of the mountain from Witsands there are 40 000 people living in the Black township of Masiphumelele who are crying out for improved living conditions while this waste goes on and on.
          When the netting began all over again in 2018 I tried to find out what the Council intended to spend on the site this year. At the start of my investigating in 2016 I dealt with Councillor Johan van der Merwe, who had the Environment portfolio.
My questions to him evidently became too hot when I asked how the tenders for the work had been allocated. That was when I was told I would not be given any further information.
          It is ironic that the Councillor in charge of Environment when the waste of money at Witsands really escalated is now the Mayoral Committee Member for Finance who recently made a speech introducing the The Greater Cape Town Water Fund Pilot Project.
          This year Van der Merwe told me that Councillor Brett Herron the Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development was now in charge of Environment. He in turn passed me onto Gregg Oelofse the Manager: Coastal Management.
          He wanted me to meet him on the site but he had to cancel our appointment because his elderly mother in Durban broke a leg.
          Obviously he could not have anticipated this but I was mystified as to what he could have told me on the site that he could not have put in an email. How much the Council plans to spend at Witsands this year is surely not a secret.
          A couple of days ago workmen were busy digging out buried nets along the sea front where virtually all the original ones had disappeared. They were rolling them up and carrying them away. And when I asked if they would be re-erected I was told that they had rotted.
          This makes nonsense of the assurance that I was given in 2016 that buried nets would be dug out and put up again. So that’s another aspect of how wasteful this netting scheme is.
          The pictures below are glaring examples of what a wasteful failure the netting has been ........  

Nets being re-erected on 2018.01.17 with what's left of the
previous ones in the foreground
Five days later on 2018.01.22 what's left of of the nets at the
same place as the above scene after a gale
Diary of Cape Town City Council’s huge waste of money in a futile attempt to keep the sand in place at the Witsands rubbish dump site which was closed more than 30 years ago.
(This is a sample of the wasteful expenditure on parts of the 19 ha site that has been repeated all over it in the last two years)
Section of dunes next to the beach at the car park end where the mountain stream washed rubbish into the sea some years ago.
Feb 2016: Heavy earth moving equipment and dumper trucks used to cover exposed rubbish
May 2016: In the same place sand blew away exposing rubbish once again.
June 2016: More sand brought in with dumper trucks.
Feb 2017: Back to square one. Rubbish exposed again as the sand had all blown away as nets proved hopelessly inadequate in keeping it in place.
April 2017: New nets erected right on top of the rubbish without first covering it with sand as had been done twice before.
Nov 2017: Nets trashed by the wind.
Beginning of 2016 & Feb 2018 showing rubbish once again
exposed in the same place
Money wasted deepening the stream from the mountain.
August 2016: While the stream was running an excavator was used to deepen it but because of the fine sand it just went back to its original depth within hours of it being “deepened”.
Jan 2017: There was no sign that there had ever been a stream there because the wind had blow so much sand across it.
May 2017: A bulldozer was used to dig out another river bed for the stream even though there was absolutely no sign of any water running down from the mountain as there was a serious drought.
Nov 2017: The river bed had once again completely disappeared under tons of wind blown sand. 
The new river bed and now
For years sand blew onto the road to the Soetwater recreational area and the Council brought in a front end loader from time to time to clear it. All the nets on the dunes nearby did nothing to prevent sand getting blown onto the road and even when bulldozers and other earth moving equipment was being used nobody thought to substantially reduced the height of the dunes next to the road. Now suddenly in February 2018 nets have been erected for the first time next to the road in an effort to stop the sand blowing onto it. But they had hardly been put up when the wind had blown some over and almost buried others in the sand. And as most of them are on high ground the chances of them all being flatted or buried very quickly is huge, as this has happened all over the site in much more sheltered places.
What's happening here is described immediately below
 Sand being removed from the road in January 2017:
It was then dumped in the nearby Witsands carpark making double work because it had to be removed from there. The ironical part of the second picture is that some of the newly erect nets next to the road (February 2018) are beside naturally grown Port Jackson, which the council has so far flatly refused to plant to stabilize the Witsands dunes at a fraction of the cost of nets and earth moving equipment.

Surely this is the most sensible way of dealing with the Witsands site especially as the City Council badly needs money for drought relief and numerous other projects to uplift the poor. And it makes more sense that ever because
everything the Council has tried up to now to stabilize the dunes has been such a very expensive failure.

March 29 2016: In a Cape Argus article base on my post City of Cape Town’s never ending money dump Gregg Oelofse  was quoted as say: “We haven’t had litter exposed for nearly 10 years.” He added that the netting was cost effective as it was easy to pick up and move around.
Both statements were questionable. As the pictures above show the litter is constantly being exposed because the nets do not do the job they are supposed to do. In addition they are hardly easy to pick up and move around when they get complete buried and trashed by the wind. It also turned out that they rot. This results in new ones having to be erected in places where others had been put up previously.
Cape Argus story - not one of the nets shown still exist
                                              *    *    *    *
          Why does a local authority go on splurging money for years on something that clearly does not work? It surely can’t be that none of its experts haven't got the brains to realise this.
          So I can only assume there must be a reason that is not immediately apparent which nobody is prepared to reveal.   
          a Consumer Watchdog who is 
          also a Cape Town rate payer.

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