Susan Campbell is a lawyer and environmentalist who has been fighting for transparency and redress regarding the ISDF and Chris Mulder. As with the corruption at Knysna Tourism and bloated Municipal salaries, the DA and local government (in particular Lauren Waring, Knysna’s Municipal Manager) have been extremely unhelpful so that a court battle may be the only option. It would seem that big business, already the biggest landowners in Knysna, come first and the public comes last, money before people. The situation becomes more worrying now that it’s rumoured that Knysna’s biggest landowner, PG Bison, has now handed over a 10% BEE stake that may bring even more politics to play at the expense of us. And the Mulder family is more involved than ever before.
I’m well aware of the challenges and threats i face in doing what i do so i’m extremely proud of Susan Campbell for standing up for what’s right and for standing up for you. Postings on this blog rock the boat so big thanks to her for allowing me to post it!
Now it’s your turn to read and share this…
YOU MAY HAVE HEARD ABOUT THE ISDF TENDER THAT HAS BEEN AWARDED TO A CONSORTIUM, HEADED BY CHRIS MULDER’S PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT FIRM, CMAI. WHEREAS THE ISDF CONCEPT IS FULLY SUPPORTED, UNDER CONTROL OF THE WRONG CONSULTANTS IT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO ENABLE IRREVERSIBLE CHANGE TO THE LANDSCAPE OF KNYSNA AND MAY POTENTIALLY THREATEN OUR FYNBOS HERITAGE AND ALTER THE UNIQUE UNIQUENESS THAT MANY OF US CHERISH AND VALUE SO AS TO CALL KNYSNA HOME.
On the 15th of April 2013 the Knysna Municipality appointed Chris Mulder’s consortium, known as Knysna Creative Heads (KCH), to prepare an Integrated Strategic Development Framework (ISDF) for Knysna. The ISDF is essentially an integrated process to review a number of legally mandated policy documents for the Knysna Municipality. The documents that are being reviewed are the Spatial Development Framework (SDF), Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Human Settlement Plan and Economic Development strategy. The first two policy documents are of particular concern.
The SDF will determine the edge within which urban development may be allowed (urban edge) and determine where infrastructure spend will be directed. Core and secondary conservation areas, no-go areas, industrial areas and agricultural areas would also be determined. The main purpose is to create certainty about future land use and to ensure the orderly and sustainable development of the area. The SDF is both prescriptive and informative and guides all future planning decisions within the Knysna municipal area. The short term (5 year), medium term (10-15 years) and the long term (30 year) development areas will be determined.
The SEA will assess the environmental impact of the SDF and will inform and guide all future environmental impact assessments (EIA’S). Core and secondary conservation areas have to be delineated. The purpose of the SEA is to ensure ecologically sustainable future development and ensure that areas of high conservation or biodiversity value and conservation corridors are protected.
Many Knysna residents were shocked at the obvious conflict of interest associated with appointing a local property developer and his development team to determine areas where future development would be permitted and infrastructure spend would be directed.
An unprecedented 133 persons and groups (including the Western Heads Protection Group) objected to the award of the tender. The Municipal Manager, Lauren Waring (LW), was obliged by law, in terms of the Supply Chain Management Policy of the Municipality, to appoint an independent person to deal with the objections but chose to appoint the same attorneys she had consulted regarding our request for access to information, and the municipality’s own legal department to deal with our objections (the request for access to information was refused by the legal department on irrational and unlawful grounds. Further requests have simply been ignored).
Our objection was more than 33 pages long and contained extensive allegations but all objections were dismissed by Lauren Waring in a single letter. None of the allegations or arguments were dealt with and we were not afforded a hearing to state our case. Some objectors have received no response.
We therefore referred our objection to the treasury of the Western Cape Provincial Government and had a meeting with Alan Winde, the MEC for Finance. Our concerns were recently set out in an e-mail to Alan Winde and we requested a response by the end of January 2014. Our intention is to take the award of the tender on review to the High Court, should no acceptable response be forthcoming from Provincial Treasury by this date. The concerns are briefly set out hereunder.
- PG Bison is the largest private property owner in Knysna. The company owns more land than Barlows in the Western Heads area, just about the whole of Rheenendal (having acquired the Van Reenen forestry holdings), Ruitgevlei, Bracken Hill etc.
- PG Bison appointed the property developer, Chris Mulder, of CMAI in 2012 to investigate and obtain the necessary approvals for a residential property development in Reenendal.
- Mulder approached Mike Maughan-Brown (MMB), the Director of Planning and Development for the Knysna Municipality to discuss PG Bison’s plans and was advised that the Spatial Development Framework (SDF) does not cater for their development proposals. This led to the questionable arrangement, endorsed by Council, where Mulder and his usual development team (with the addition of Peet Joubert), were appointed in November 2012 by the Knysna Municipality to prepare a Structure Plan for Rheenendal. PG Bison would pay the consultants and Knysna Municipality would contribute R 80 000. This appointment was made despite the fact that the SDF would be reviewed as part of the ISDF process in early 2013. The rationale behind this appointment is hard to fathom, as a SDF trumps a LUPO Structure Plan and the Structure Plan therefore would have to be in line with the SDF.
- Mulder’s company, CMAI was appointed in April 2013 to prepare the ISDF, which includes the review of the SDF. In short, Mulder heads the process whereby the development areas for the next 5 to 30 years will be mapped out and the location for infrastructure spend will be determined.
- The ISDF tender was prepared and awarded under the watch of MMB, who incidentally advised PG Bison’s predecessor, Steinhoff, on issues relating to their land holdings and forestry settlements prior to working for the Knysna Municipality. MMB will be overseeing the process and has advised the consultants that there will be no ‘no-go’ areas, contrary to the specifications for the SEA in the tender document.
- Mulder’s wife, Pat Mulder is conducting the public participation process despite the fact that she has no relevant qualifications or experience. In a recent ISDF meeting she strongly came to the defence of her client PG Bison when their treatment of forestry communities was discussed. A clear example of the conflict of interest actually manifesting itself.
- PG Bison is actively encouraging forestry communities in its plantations to leave. Forestry communities complain of a lack of infrastructure and that they are not being employed by the company. In addition to this PG Bison is funding and facilitating the purchase of RDP houses from beneficiaries, for the residents of the forestry settlements to move into. At a recent public meeting it was alleged that some of these transactions are not legal, as the original beneficiaries had not yet acquired the right to sell.
- Adding to the conflict is the fact that Mulder’s son, Steff Mulder, has been tasked with preparing the Human Settlement Plan. The PG Bison forestry settlements have been an ongoing problem and Steff can hardly be expected to be unbiased where his client, PG Bison, is involved.
- It has been established from three reliable sources that PG Bison intends to develop in the Uitzicht area in future.
- A local ANC Councillor (unlike the DA councillors, the ANC councillors are prepared to meet with us), has advised Susan Campbell that ten per cent of the shares in PG Bison have been acquired by a BEE Consortium and he is already receiving phone calls from ‘the ANC’ in Cape Town, urging the local ANC to support PG Bison’s development plans in Rheenendal.
- We therefore are faced with a situation where the town’s most prominent property developer CMAI, employed by the town’s largest land owner, PG Bison, is managing the process in which Knysna’s long term development future will be mapped out. The process will be overseen by a previous consultant to the land owner, MMB, who somehow is unable to see any conflict of interest in this process.
- Lauren Waring, the Municipal Manager would have us believe that the consortium consists of a ‘team of professionals’, who will exercise checks and balances over each other and will not risk their reputations in the process. The so called ‘checks and balances’ provides little reassurance, as in reality we are faced with the following situation: CMAI, represented by Chris Mulder, is the Project Leader. The public participation process is conducted by CMAI, represented by Mulder’s wife Pat. The Human Settlement Plan is prepared by CMAI, represented by Chris and Pat’s son, Steff Mulder. The enormous influence of one family, with interests in the property development business, over the future of our town is extremely worrying.
- The consortium consists mostly of CMAI’s usual property development team (with the exception of Peet Joubert) and is not appropriately qualified to deliver the ISDF framework.
- This consortium did not achieve the lowest price or highest score in the tender. The team that should have been awarded the tender is highly and appropriately qualified to deliver the ISDF. In addition to this, there is no risk of conflict of interest in respect of the team that should have been awarded the tender.
As is clear from the above, Mulder, as project manager, is positioned to ensure that the land owned by his clients, PG Bison (and possibly Barloworld) is included in the ‘urban edge’. It is no secret that Mulder does not favour a restrictive urban edge as he prefers to develop ‘in nature’. The project is overseen by Mike Maughan-Brown. MMB does not favour a tight urban edge and his negative views of the current SDF are no secret.
We have tried everything to resolve this matter without resorting to litigation. We have now reached the stage where we have no option but to prepare to take the matter on review to the High Court. We either have to accept a future where all planning principles are potentially cast aside and developers are allowed to unduly influence the setting of boundaries within which they may develop, or we shall have to approach the court, to compel our municipality to govern according to the planning laws and policies of the land and to obey the rules of good governance. In short, if we allow the municipality to get away with this, we will be complicit in allowing this culture of impunity to flourish.
Our intention is to request the court to set aside the awarding of the tender to KCH and to award the tender to the consortium led by City Think Space (CTS). CTS had the lowest price and achieved the highest score and should have been awarded the tender in the first place. The Bid Evaluation Committee found this team qualified to deliver the ISDF, but awarded it to KCH, because they were ‘more creative’ and because they are from Knysna. It is precisely the fact that CMAI is a local developer that gives rise to the conflict of interest.
We intend to institute action in the name of The Western Heads Protection Group. This group was established in 2004 in response to Barloworld and Chris Mulder’s proposed Uitzicht development and to protect the ecologically sensitive Western Heads area. Any individuals and/or organisations are welcome to join as Co-Plaintiffs.
No individual contributors will be liable for any adverse cost order unless they agree to become Co-Plaintiffs.
THE RISK OF AN ADVERSE COST ORDER, EVEN IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT THAT WE ARE UNSUCCESSFUL, IS NEGLIBLE AS SECTION 38 OF THE CONSTITUTION AND SECTION 32 NEMA ENCOURAGE PRIVATE CITIZENS TO DEFEND CONSTITUTIONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS AND DISCOURAGE COURTS FROM MAKING ADVERSE COSTS ORDERS AGAINST UNSUCESSFUL APPLICANTS.
It is not only the Western Heads that is under threat from the award of the ISDF tender. The natural landscape and agricultural areas of the Greater Knysna are all potentially under threat.
We urge you to contribute to the legal costs. Any contribution will be help to make a difference. As everyone is not in the same financial position, everyone is requested to contribute according to his/her means.
Herewith details of the account to be used for donations:
- Account Name: Western Heads Protection Fund
- Bank: First National Bank
- Branch: Knysna
- Branch No for Internet banking: 250655
- Account No: 741 6243 7659
- Account Type: 32 day notice account
Please note that internet users transferring funds from banks other than FNB should select one of the following options:
- Notice Account or
- Savings Account
Names of depositors should appear in the reference field for identification purposes.
May I suggest that where donations are made by cheque that either the deposit is done directly into the banking account, Branch No 210214, or that cheques be mailed to the Western Heads Protection Group, P O Box 1248, Knysna, 6570.
Any queries can be addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org