Government now has a responsibility to abide by the public’s wishes on Chapman’s Peak

Gavin Smith
Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance

World sentiment is busy shifting, so too are the rules of engagement. No matter what the “legal / technical” argument, cries of “poor me!” and “we inherited xy and z from the previous regime” the crux of the Chapman’s Peak issue is that we are witnessing an act of blatant environmental terrorism against an iconic landmark and the public has vociferously rejected it.

Some might say that this “changing the rules of engagement” will result in global anarchy. Like it or not, ‘people power’ IS the new order and people are moving past the promotion of ‘accountability’ and are now in certain circumstances demanding ‘culpability’, as recent international events have shown. On the lower end we witness demands for bonuses to be stopped or repaid and on the higher end, the bloody demise of those held to account, all of whom had argument in mitigation, which fell on deaf ears.

There are many and varied opinions on the term “iconic” as relates to Chapman’s Peak Drive itself, including some who say that the road should not be there in the first place, however both local and provincial governments have punted the placement of the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) into a higher order through their recent promotions of the ‘7 Wonders of the World’ and the ‘2014 Design Capital’. Chapman’s Peak Drive is inextricably linked to the TMNP and its time to ‘pay the piper’, which has graciously provided the foundation and backdrop for these awards. Not to kick it in the crotch, as the Western Cape Government, proponents and beneficiaries of the toll and office block are presently doing.

Public opinion on the Chappies debacle has been voiced through, those who are willing to place their live’s on the line, 2500 protesters at the January march, 1,150 online petitioners (so far!), thousands of paper signed petitioners, together with engagement by both individuals and groups directly with the WC Government. Blogs, Facebook and Twitter are absolutely awash with public opinion chastising the decisions on both the toll and the office block. As far as print media goes, hardly a day goes by without many people voicing their objection, which has been only partly recorded here Public opinion and which frankly has become too burdensome to continue recording everything due to the volume. These recorded objections do not however reflect, in number, those of the silent majority who can only be measured at the polls. With respect to ‘technical / legal argument’ about the pro’s and cons, the size, on a road reserve, de-proclamation, the contractual obligations, who did what, who’s to blame and who’s the innocent victims, as far as the public is concerned, that ship has sailed.

The public have voiced their opinion on the matter of Chappies and surpassing “normal” and “accepted” standards of right or wrong, the WC Government now has a responsibility to abide by the public’s wishes. Failing which they, as they are presently being viewed publicly, are co-conspirators to a very serious crime. It was just an environmental crime, but is now increasingly being viewed as a crime against democracy. Ignoring this will understandably have serious ramifications. Bottom line, the Government has been given a public mandate and as such are required to do whatever is necessary to make this thing go away. In actual fact, they should be working with, not against Len and the Residents’ Association of Hout Bay team in finding a workable solution that supports the public view.

Gavin Smith is a deputy to the Chairperson of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance.

1 comment to Government now has a responsibility to abide by the public’s wishes on Chapman’s Peak

  • Aragorn Eloff

    “Some might say that this “changing the rules of engagement” will result in global anarchy.”

    Ah, the irony. The most visible (and, arguably, effective) protests against the toll plaza and office block were the occupations inspired by the global Occupy movement. The global Occupy movement that is deeply inspired and informed by anarchist principles. So sad to see an idea watered down until there’s nothing left of its essence.

    Frankly, I do hope for global anarchy; it’s the only way these kinds of ridiculous development projects will be stopped for good.

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