PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - A mudslinging match seems to have erupted between Bitou Municipality and the Western Cape human settlements department over housing issues in Plettenberg Bay.
It started after MEC Tertuis Simmers slammed Bitou mayor Peter Lobese for what he described as disseminating "various misrepresentations" over housing in Bitou's New Horizons and Qolweni communities.
He also criticised the municipality for not attending a meeting on 6 October by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) which the latter had arranged to provide clarity on these issues.
Simmers felt residents had to be informed of precise facts and to dispel all inaccuracies being promoted in the public arena. "It is however regrettable that both the SAHRC and the municipalities' executive were not present at the meeting," he said.
Business plan never adopted
With the aim of clarity, he explained that R3-million for the erection of temporary residential units (TRAs) had never been allocated, but formed part of a draft business plan by the municipality that had not been adopted.
"The erection of 400 TRAs on the Ebenezer site is not on the plan. In excess of 1 470 opportunities are planned for the Ebenezer site, where assessment impacts were completed by 30 September 2019. I'd like to request the Bitou council to discuss and approve the construction plans, as we want to start with construction by February 2020," Simmers said.
His department, Simmers said, would construct 36 houses in Qolweni/Bossiesgif on what is known as the Minnaar land at a cost of R5.5-million, he said. These houses, which were requested by the municipality, must be completed by 31 March 2020, he added.
Previous MEC 'five times better'
Lobese has since hit back. He said he is very disturbed by the "utter arrogance and lack of respect" by Simmers, and added, "The minister is going around presenting plans to communities without even having the decency to table it to council. These plans do not conform to those that were approved by his predecessor. We may not have always agreed with the approach by his predecessor, but he was five times better than the current incumbent," Lobese said.
The mayor said Simmers, four months into the position, had without consultation unilaterally changed all the housing plans that was approved by his predecessor.
About not attending the SAHRC meeting, Lobese said senior officials already had prior commitments.
He said the municipality had a budget approved by former Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela's office for 169 houses. "How Simmers had come to reduce this amount of houses to only 36 houses is a mystery. Currently, there is a TRA being developed on the Minnaar site that was part of the budget received during Madikizela's tenure. Therefore, Bitou Municipality will still go ahead and implement the plans as agreed during the time of his office," Lobese said.
Simmers did not respond to Lobese's comments, other than saying he stands by his earlier comments.
New Horizons community leader Claude Terblanche said the community was very disappointed that the municipality did not attend the meeting. "It did not go down well with the leadership," he said.
The SAHRC had not responded to questions about the meeting before going to print.
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