Arrest of woman protesting against Office Block and Toll Plaza on Chapman’s Peak

Cape Times front page 21 Feb 2012 : HINDS SITE: Protester Fiona Hinds was arrested by police yesterday after camping on the Chapman’s Peak toll plaza construction site for five days. Toll road company Entilini, of which Murray and Roberts is a senior partner, has laid charges against Hinds, who will appear in court tomorrow.

 

Cape Times: 21st February 2012
Melanie Gosling
Environment Writer

POLICE arrested a woman yesterday who has occupied the building site of the Chapman’s Peak toll plaza for five days in a bid to halt construction of one of the most controversial structures on the peninsula.

After enduring heat and high winds in a tiny tent, washing in a litre of water and having at times to relieve herself behind a blanket, a handcuffed Fiona Hinds of Simon’s Town was escorted off the building site by Hout Bay police late yesterday afternoon.

Hinds, who spoke briefly to the Cape Times by phone after her arrest, said she had been charged with malicious damage to property for “spray-painting the netting” attached to the fence surrounding the construction site. The charges were brought by Chapman’s Peak toll road concessionaire, Entilini, whose senior partner is Murray and Roberts.

“One of the bail conditions is that I don’t go to the construction site, but my lawyer is trying to get that changed,” Hinds said.

And late last night Hinds’ fellow protester, Bronwen Lankers-Byrne, who joined her shortly after dawn yesterday after she gave up a 15-day hunger strike, unlocked the handcuffs bounding her to the scaffolding after police handed her a Western Cape High Court order.

Entilini had applied for the order which instructed all unauthorised persons to leave the construction site.

Lankers-Byrne, her head just sticking above the construction pit around a pillar said she had been advised by her lawyer to abide by the court order.

About 20 people stood outside the construction fence shouting encouragement to her and abuse to Entilini staff and police in the background. A man shouted: “You cowards, don’t you feel guilty?”

Lankers-Byrne said she and Hinds had achieved a lot by raising public awareness.

“People have been hooting and shouting encouragement for 16 days,” she said referring to her 15-day hunger strike.

“It’s crazy the DA is going ahead with this. Many people told me it’s the last time they will vote DA.

“And Murray and Roberts, who work worldwide, their name is really being dirtied, it’s tarnished. I can’t understand why Murray and Roberts continues with this.”

Last night Enzo Menegaldo, a director of Entilini, said the company wouldn’t be pressing charges. However, they

wanted them off the building site so they could continue construction.

Hinds’ lawyer, Graham Taylor, said the trespassing charge had no basis as the land alongside Chapman’s Peak Drive was public space.

“They will lay trumped-up charges to remove the ladies from the site so they can start pouring the concrete,” Taylor said yesterday.

Thousands of people have signed a petition to halt the building of the toll plaza and office, saying it is unnecessary, unsightly and unlawful to build on national parks land.

Said Hinds: “I came here on day 10 of Bronwen’s hunger strike. I decided to occupy the site because it is easier sometimes to take action than to sit around and watch something bad happening. I wrote to Murray and Roberts last week about this. I said to one of their guys the other day: ‘Is there not someone in your organisation who’s got balls enough to say what you are doing is immoral and unethical?’ If these plans came before a peer review with this horrible design, it would fail horribly. Henry Laas (Murray and Roberts’ group CEO) says on their website ‘we respect the King Commission’, but they are not living up to that statement,” Hinds said.

Last month 2 300 people marched in protest against the proposed R54 million toll plaza and luxury two-storey toll office, to be built on Table Mountain National Park land.

“Murray and Roberts have not backed down because half the R54m is paid by the public and they will get this luxury building rent-free for the next 30 years,” said

Hinds, who handcuffed herself to the metal scaffolding around one of the pillars last Wednesday with protester Charlie Gorton.

“I had had six cups of tea and badly needed to pee but I did not want to leave the site, so eventually I just had to do it there. I had a blanket in front, but all the construction crew saw my bum because they were behind me. The next day the crew manager came and said: ‘I’ve been married for 36 years and I was talking to my wife about you and I decided you can use our toilet. We don’t want you to have to be undignified’.”

Hinds was eating throat lozenges for her sore throat.

“It’s from talking to all the people who come to the site,” she said. “I’ve had so much support, it’s incredible.”

 

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