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Wednesday Feb 22, 2012

Chapmans Peak toll plaza: Unesco steps in

Unesco has stepped in to the Chapman's Peak toll plaza issue and is investigating the matter so the UN body can "take appropriate action".

After a call from environmental campaigner and polar swimmer Lewis Pugh, Unesco has agreed to step in and investigate the matter.

Lazare Eloundou, head of Unesco's Africa unit of the organisation's World Heritage Centre, said in an e-mail yesterday they had contacted South African authorities about the matter.

"We have contacted the South African authorities to get more information in order to take appropriate action. We are also studying the existing legislative measures protecting Table Mountain National Parks as a World Heritage Site," Eloundou said in the e-mail.

The e-mail was sent to environmental campaigner and polar swimmer Lewis Pugh, who had helped get one of the Norwegian fjords declared a World Heritage Site. Pugh wrote to Unesco on Sunday alerting them to the toll plaza construction on Chapman's Peak, asking to whom he could make the report that a local World Heritage Site was under threat.

"I live in Cape Town and local government want to build a large toll plaza and administrative building in the Table Mountain National Park, which is part of the Unesco Cape Floral Region Protected Areas," he wrote.

"Our legal team says this is contrary to South African law. But government are insistent that they will press ahead, and have started laying the foundations. There have been protest marches and a hunger strike but no one seems to listen," Pugh wrote to Unesco.

Yesterday Pugh told the Cape Times there were many disturbing issues in the Chapman's Peak toll plaza development, "but the one that gets to me is building an office block on a World Heritage Site inside a national park. These places are sacrosanct and must be protected. I wrote to Unesco asking if they can intervene and they have kindly agreed to do so."

At the Chapman's Peak site yesterday there was only a handful of construction workers who left around lunchtime.

Protesters had expected toll road concessionaire Entilini to "start pouring the concrete" yesterday after the company got a Western Cape High Court order to remove former hunger striker Bronwen Lankers-Byrne from the site late on Monday night.

Earlier that day, police had arrested fellow protester Fiona Hinds, who had camped on the site for five days.

She has been charged with malicious damage to property for allegedly spray-painting "Murray & Robbers" on the netting around the site.

She is expected to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court this morning.

The Cape Times asked Enzo Menegaldo, one of the Entilini directors, what the company planned to do on site yesterday, but Menegaldo said he was not prepared to discuss it.

On Monday police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk told the Cape Times that Entilini had laid the charge against Hinds, but yesterday Menegaldo said this was not so, and that the charge had been laid by Chapman's Peak Construction Joint Venture. Entilini had only obtained the high court order.

"We were surprised to have the police arrest her," Menegaldo said.

He said site agent Johan Ehlers, a Haw & Inglis employee, had laid the charge. Ehlers confirmed that he had done so after their security guards on site had seen a car draw up on Sunday, February 5, from which people alighted to spray-paint the netting. The guard took down the vehicle registration, Ehlers laid a charge and police traced the car to Hinds.

Ehlers said they had video footage of the spray painters, taken by the security guard on his cellphone, but he admitted they could not say it was Hinds.

Graham Taylor, the attorney representing Lankers-byrne and Hinds, said yesterday they would challenge the court order obtained by Entilini and have it set aside.

It had been issued with no prior notice, and apparently it had not been served by a sheriff of the court.

The order applied to Hinds, Lankers-byrne and Charlie Gorton and "any other person whose identities are not known".

"We have a good chance of having it set aside," Taylor said.

Cape Times

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