Paul Scheepers: Plett, the Transition
A talk given by Paul Scheepers who served as the Mayor of Plettenberg Bay during 1992, 1993 and 1994.
“In the early 1990s Plett went through trying times - but we survived it - and we are still here.
I am going to tell you about some of the things that happened during that time.
In 1992 when the old non-political Council was in place, Kwanokuthula had no houses - only toilets had been built. Some smart guys in Plett thought it was funny and put up a sign on the N2 calling Kwanokuthula “Flushing Meadows”.
This did not sit well with me and one day I had an idea - following Mandela’s dream of a better life for all. My idea was that we should cut up ten, even from a piece of prime Beachy Head Drive Public open space, sell them and kick-start the housing in Kwanokuthula.
The Council were not convinced and said that I should ask the Ratepayers. I wrote a personal letter to every Ratepayer that the Municipal staff posted and got 90% positive written reply. With this support, the Council and Province approved my scheme.
But now a problem - if we wanted to auction the land off during the peak season when all the rich guys were here, we had to get the land subdivided. The time we had in hand was far too short to get the subdivision done. I wrote to the Surveyor General and explained our position. He came back immediately and said that he supported us and that our application would be moved to the top of the list. We got the land subdivided in record time.
Kwano on the way
The land was auctioned off and the money raised was paid to the Plettenberg Bay Housing Trust who gave the money to the Municipality - and the housing of Kwanokuthula was on its way.
There were a lot of problems to be overcome
- The Housing Departments in SA were a mess as it was a whole new system.
- There was no Tender out for Contractors to be appointed to build the houses.
- We had many contractors building prototype houses for the people to choose
- We had Stokvels in action. (A “stokvel” at its simplest is a group saving scheme where a number of people contribute regularly to a fund which pays out accumulated benefits to each member in turn or agrees to spend the funds collected on a major project of benefit to the group or as an investment for the group.)
- We had individuals building their own houses.
Our Municipal staff were fantastic.
The Dept of Public Works under Henry Geldenhuys did so much to make the project work.
Mark Fourie of the housing Department was fantastic. He travelled to Cape Town so many times and bullied the officials to get us our subsidies for the houses completed. If we had not been paid out the whole project would have stopped
There were others also committed to the housing project.
A Housing Committee was set up to speed up the process - Chaired by Mike Wells. Mike formed the Community Development Trust ( CDC) that did a huge amount of work.
- They built storage facilities for building materials and trained unskilled people on how to build houses.
- Training officers came from Cape Town, paid for by the Plettenberg Bay Housing Trust.
One sad item -
Mike Wells travelled overseas to raise money for the CDC. When he came back the other Committee members of the CDC asked him why he did not take them overseas with him. Mike replied that he personally paid for the trip in order to raise money for the CDC. They then dumped him as the Chairman of the CDC. Needless to say, the CDC then went belly up
To cut a long story short, Plett won the award for housing delivery. The whole of SA had built 200 000 houses and little Plett had built 1000.
As the State started to pay back, The Trust moved into social projects.
The Trust built the following:
- Centre for the mentally and physically disabled in Kranzhoek.
- Soup kitchens
- Toilets for those who had none
- A TV tower in Wittedift to provide TV broadcasts to Witttedrift and Green Valley which we ran for eight years.
- Paid for planning for future housing needs
- Provided office containers for schools and so much more.
- The Trust built ten houses in Kwano. These were later allocated to the teachers.
- They also built 10 houses in New Horizon for physically disabled persons
In the industrial area, The Trust built a soup kitchen and two sets of additions for Edna Light who feeds 350 people 5 times a week. She goes to Ireland and Canada to raise money for the project. The donors come to Plett and are stunned by what she has achieved. She is an angel.
Our Police had only two vehicles. The Rotary Anne’s bought a car for the Police. They could not get it registered so The Trust paid for petrol for three months.
The Police and detectives had no communications with their stations. The Trust bought cell phones and airtime for them.
(The Trust has now closed down and it donated 3 HA of land to the Municipality for Green Valley that ran out of land at a cost of R 800 000 and paid R50 000 to Rotary for community projects)
The Ratepayers should pat themselves on the back as none of this would have happened had they not responded with 90 % positive support for the sale of land on Beachy Head Drive.
In those days Plett had a tiny Clinic behind the Fire station and other small clinics.
- The Clinic behind the fire station consisted only of 4 rooms and a garage.
- The Council contacted the Government and said that we needed a clinic for the people of Plettenberg Bay.
- They came back and said that they have no money but if we built it they would run it.
- The Council wrote to our rich Ratepayers and asked for donations. Some money was donated - but not nearly enough to build the new clinic.
- Then Donny Gordon contacted the Council and said that he would match us Rand for Rand.
On completion, the cost had gone up. Donny said that he would still match us Rand for Rand. When the clinic was complete we took the Gordons around to show them what they had helped us build. We then said that we would like to call it the Donny Gordon Clinic. He said no - What a gentleman.
Later I designed an addition to the clinic where Prof van Selm started an eye clinic. He did 3000 cataract operations there. There were another highly skilled Medical professionals in Plett who all came and helped get the Clinic going well.
You have no idea the difference that clinic made to all the people of Plett of all races. Anyone who did not have enough money to go to a Doctor could go there for superb service, The quality of the staff was fantastic.
The old Council was expanded to form the pre-Interim Council and later the Interim Council. This was a Council representing every political organization and all the others - ranging from the Farmers Association to the Ratepayers. We had so many Councillor’s (40) that we had to move our meetings from the Council Chamber to the Community Hall in order for us all to fit in.
In those days Plett was in the Eastern Cape. The boundary was the Garden of Eden between Plett and Knysna.
- All Provincial boundaries were being reviewed.
- Our late Town Clerk Alec Smart wrote a fantastic letter of motivation as to why Plett should move to the Western Cape.
- Our Interim Council supported it 100 %.
I led a delegation to the meeting in PE to present our case. The board said that in all the applications they had received, this was the first time where all players in a Community spoke with the same voice.
We all wanted to move to the Western Cape. Our application was approved and the new boundary was changed from the Garden of Eden to the Blaukranz River. This was the best move the people of Plett could have taken and this was with a 100 % support of all our people. Plett benefitted hugely for Housing, Education, Health and the Road system, and so much more, from this move.
Violence in Plett
During this time we had serious violence in our town.
There was a small community that lived between New Horizons and the industrial area that was very violent. One day the ANC was going to have a meeting at the hall in Bossiesgif. The ANC then told me that they were informed that this violent bunch of people were going to seal off the doors at the hall and attack the ANC members through the windows. I had to inform them via their councillor that should they take this action and any ANC members were hurt, their whole community would be wiped out. Needless to say, it did not happen. Many factories were burnt down in the Industrial Area.
The police were not allowed to cross the N2 into the Industrial area. Only the Riot squad from George could go in. We lived near the Fire Department and countless times the sirens went off at night and I went down to sit with the lady on duty as all the firemen and volunteers were out fighting the fires in the industrial area.
These were also the unsung heroes of Plett.
A Councillor who had a permanent job -took unpaid time off work to attend every Council, Committee and Forum meeting - fighting for the rights of his people - what a gentleman. He was murdered in Kwanokuthula. His killers were never brought to book.
The violence in Plett continued. At a political meeting in Bossiesgif, a young lady stood up and objected to some things that were being said. Some young guys grabbed her, stripped her naked and chased her through the community.
At the next meeting Nelson Meseko, a crippled barman, who worked at the Hotel next door - stood up and said what was done to the young lady was unacceptable. The next morning he was chopped to death! The killers were never brought to justice. This is the first man in Plett to die, standing up for woman’s rights.
There are many more of these heroes but there is no memorial or plaque honouring these heroes of the struggle in Plett? What about our heritage day?
Violence in Plett
At Plett Country Club some ladies were held up and robbed by armed attackers.
One Saturday, the police were informed that the Country club was going to be attacked, as had happened in the Eastern Cape - where some golfers were shot. That Saturday there were many police present, dressed up in golf gear, but luckily nothing happened.
Russ Victor was Captain of the Plett Country Club and I was his vice Captain. One day we were informed that the club was going to be attacked and burnt down. Russ and I sat there late into the night to defend the Club. The next day we heard that some guys came to the club but saw two strange vehicles in the car park and left.
I was playing golf one Saturday and I was called off the course as there was a bomb threat to blow up the Beacon Island Hotel. There were no Senior Municipal Officials in town and we had to set up full emergency systems. The fire brigade went on standby around the corner, NSRI and all doctors and the clinic were ready. Luckily the bomb squad from George found nothing.
One weekend I was warned by the ANC members that I was going to be attacked at my house. I sent Sue and the kids to spend the weekend with the Tom and Annetjie Dicey family at Uplands and waited for the attack. Luckily nothing happened. Not a pleasant experience...
Some light relief
Then a bit of light relief. At one of the peace Committees that I had to attend, a matter was raised. The police were not allowed to cross the N2 into the industrial area. People from Bossiesgif gathered and threw stones at the police on the N2. The police replied by firing back at the catapults. The problem was that some police started using spark plugs as ammunition. Imagine being hit by a flying spark plug. All agreed at the Peace Committee meeting that stones were ok but the use of spark plugs as ammunition would be banned.
Guess what? When we had the election in 1994 we had a peaceful election. Plett is the best!
The Plettenberg Bay Fishermans Trust
Round about 2000 The Plettenberg Bay Fishermans Trust was formed to create a fund that could assist poor fishermen in times of need in the future.
The Trustees were two Councillors who were not fishermen and five others - also not fishermen. The Trust and a local guy formed a company and applied for Hake fishing rights and were given the rights (They were given the quota because the Trust represented the ordinary fishermen). The Company was formed with a local guy owning 45 % of the shares and the Trust 55%.
I understand that he was put under huge pressure by the Trustees to sell his shares. I contacted him about this and he would not say a word. He then sold his shares to the guys in Cape St Francis. The Company then got a 52.1-ton hake quota and paid for shares in an 18.5 longliner fishing boat. The Trustees would not give the beneficiaries a copy of the Trust Document.
A legal guy had to be employed to go to the Master of the Supreme court to get a copy. Guess what, to date, the beneficiaries have not received one cent from the Trustees. I contacted the accountants and they told me that “Monies which have been declared as dividends to the Trust have been allocated by the Trustees, who are mandated to allocate as per the Trust document”
The Trust was formed to assist the poor fishermen going through hard times. They are suffering now. Two years ago I gave all Copies of all the Documents to Cornelius Krigge, a beneficiary, who has had meetings with the Beneficiaries in New Horizon. They are trying to follow it up but with no progress. The beneficiaries are poor people and do not have the money to pay Attorneys to fight this case.
In those days the Lookout Beach had a little kiosk. We had an idea to have a restaurant there. The Ratepayers were angry and started a petition against it. Then another petition was started by those supporting it. It was approved and The Deck was built.
Guess what - some of the biggest supporters of the Deck were those who signed the petition against it
The Whale Tail Lookout Point
We wanted to build a lookout point where visitors could look over our beautiful bay. Many residents who lived close by were unhappy. We built it anyway and I believe that it has been a great success and used by so many people.