Mayor ‘fakes council support’ for unsubstantiated multi-billion rand project

On September 7 DA Bitou caucus leader BILL NEL released a statement to express his party’s “surprise” that Bitou mayor Peter Lobese brought an addendum into council that was not published in the agenda - read Nel’s full statement below

THE addendum brought to council’s July 31 meeting featured a presentation to council by Prof Anele Hammond, previously Mngadi - a well-known intellectual figure from the University of Cape Town.
During the presentation, DA councillors were shocked to learn that Swiss-based NGO Engadin Stiftung had already made the decision to invest billions of rands to establish a university in Plett, and that the process would begin as early as September 1.
This decision was made without council seeing a credible business plan or a scrap of evidence confirming that any of the government required approvals for such an endeavour had even been applied for.
The crux of Professor Hammond’s presentation was that Engadin Stiftung had already raised funding to invest in the project and that it will cover construction costs, skills transfer with top international construction professionals and a venture capital fund to invest in social initiatives.
According to Hammond, the project will be in partnership with the national government and other funding organisations, and to “unlock” these funds, Bitou Municipality needs to provide the following: a “suitable 99-year lease agreement” for the already identified piece of land with house and classrooms; a “once-off R3-million set-up cost” for the renovation of the buildings, the relocating of experts to Plettenberg Bay, etc.
Finally, R1-million monthly from September 1, 2020 for “operational running costs for the first 12 months of the Transactional Law Clinic project”.
During her presentation, Prof Hammond mentioned that she is married to a Swiss national but that she had already relocated from Switzerland to an exclusive suburb in Plettenberg Bay. The South African office of Engadin Stiftung is located at 57, 6th Road, Hyde Park and the directors are Dr Anele Mngadi, Dr Mandlalele Mhinga, and Adv Nina Hammond.
While the DA in Bitou will always support and champion the improvement and expansion of educational facilities as well as capital investments and the creation of job opportunities in our town, the proverbial jury is still out in this instance.
The inordinate haste and naiveté of the presentation, together with the lack of credible evidence, raises several glaring red flags which, in our view, requires a proper forensic investigation.
To add to the DA’s concerns, mayor Lobese’s hasty press release claiming that council “resolved” to support the project, is false. There was no council resolution, nor was there a vote on the matter. This was merely a presentation to council with a standard post facto Q&A session, nothing more.
The DA in Bitou can, under no circumstances, consider supporting this specific project before due process is followed.