City to frack CPD?

Wow. This is huge.

The contents of a previously confidential and completely fictitious City of Cape Town report which were revealed during routine business in the Western Cape High Court this morning look set to cause outrage across the city.
The report, commissioned late last year, outlines details of plans to move the Cenotaph from its present site on Adderley Street in the City Centre to a disused quarry on Chapman’s Peak Drive where it would be used as part of a hydraulic fracturing rig to extract the rich deposits of natural gas discovered at the site during preliminary survey work by the toll company Entilini last year.

The plan marries together three contentious issues which are described by the report’s anonymous author as “awkward problems which could prove potentially costly vote-wise at the next election, but which require addressing”. The author goes on to suggest that “tying the three together would likely limit the amount of negative PR generated by these issues should we address them separately”, but notes:

On face value, this plan makes good financial and political sense and makes the best of several difficult situations facing the City; namely, (a) that the position currently occupied by the Cenotaph is the preferred site for a MyCiti bus station, (b) that the City contract with Entilini requires that we must upgrade the Chapman’s Peak Drive toll plaza and a huge office park, and (c) that the natural gas deposits beneath Chapman’s Peak Drive are of such value that it would be foolish not to act upon them.
However, we should expect stiff opposition to each of these issues, given the historical significance of the Cenotaph, the emotional attachment of Hout Bay residents to Chapman’s Peak Drive, and the current negative publicity surrounding the process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The report suggests that certain environmental and financial points regarding the plans should be emphasised in media releases and interviews, including:

  • The convenience and improved carbon footprint of public transport when compared to private cars.
  • The recycling of the Cenotaph material and the return of those stones to their natural home in a quarry.
  • The cleanliness of natural gas when compared to electricity from coal.
  • The offset of expensive costs of new toll plaza and first stages of the Entilini office park through selling natural gas fracked from the Chapman’s Peak Drive site.

The confidential report appears to have been distributed to appropriate departments within the municipality.
City officials were unable to comment on the report at the time of writing.

Watch this one folks – I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a whole lot more about it.

Chappies to open for Argus?

I’m not a big fan of cyclists, generally. They clog up the local roads, ignore red traffic signals, weave and wobble all over the place and then moan when you hit them. Yes, some of my best friends are cyclists, but we know that if civilities are to be maintained during a braai or social curry, then the subject of cycling is best avoided.

It doesn’t help living in Cape Town, where the Cape Argus Cycle Tour – the largest timed cycling event in the world – takes place each autumn. Sure, it’s “just a day”, but there’s all the road closures, detours and damn lycra everywhere. And all the parlance in all the local pubs is about “going sub-three” and stuff. (I was hugely disappointed when I found out that this was time to do the race and not metres underwater.)

But now, taking over the entire peninsular for a weekend and more is not enough. They want Chapman’s Peak Drive reopened for them for the day. “Because they’re special”…

photo: Hubert January on Flickr.
Chapman’s Peak Drive, ruining a mountain recently.

I should explain. Chapman’s Peak Drive or “Chappies” is a stunning road cut into the cliffs between Hout Bay and Noordhoek with some of the most amazing views in the world (personally, I prefer the R44 south out of Gordon’s Bay, but anyway…). But with cliff cuttage comes rock fallage. Fortunately, the (allegedly corrupt) Entilini company who built and now operate the toll road knew about this and put big nets up to catch the rocks which would otherwise squash the cars. These are called catchfences (the biggest misnomer since Pussy Galore) and they don’t work. That’s why Chappies has been closed since heavy winter rains last year made it too dangerous for cars and buses and lorries and people to go along the 9km route.

But not for 35,000 cyclists in March, apparently. No. They are invincible (except when in contact with motor vehicles) and thus, falling rocks pose absolutely no danger to them at all. And so they want Chapman’s Peak reopened for them. For the day.

Never mind the poor souls who live in Noordhoek and Kommetjie who have had to add an extra 40kms onto their journeys into Cape Town for the past 6 months. Entilini (who helpfully get paid by the Province whether they are collecting tolls or not) have consistently ignored their desperate pleas to reopen the road. “No,” say Entilini, “it’s unsafe! Rocks and stuff. Gravity. Squashed car. Lawsuit. See?”
But it looks like they’re going to open it up just so the visiting Jo’burg lycra brigade can have their jollies on March 8th. If I lived in Noordhoek, I’d picket, toyi-toyi and block the road*.

The announcement was promised last night and, because it’s being made by the Province, will actually be made this afternoon. And if it’s a yes, it will be a big two fingers up to the local residents, at which point, maybe we should be asking what Entilini stand to gain from the deal. Because otherwise – why would they open an unsafe road for 35,000 potential targets?

EDIT: And, as widely predicted on this blog, they have opened Chappies for the Argus. Shock.

What a disgrace. As Kaiser Chiefs once said: I predict a riot. Although knowing the gentle folk of Noordhoek, perhaps it will just be a stern letter to whoever will listen.
Presumably, on Monday 9th March, it will suddenly become “too dangerous” again and be closed for another 6 months.

* This is what I would do if I lived in Noordhoek and does not amount to incitement to violence.