Mayor’s take on Plett University

Bitou Municipality released this statement last week, with posts on Facebook and other portals on September 4

THE current unhappiness from some of the residents of New Horizons, regarding the proposed establishment of a university is concerning and needs to be clarified.
Bitou Council took a resolution to support the establishment of a university in an ordinary council meeting held on the July 31, 2020.
The resolution taken was as follows:
1. Bitou Council will make available the required land;
2. Bitou Council will facilitate the process of rezoning the identified land accordingly,
3. Bitou Council will support the process of soliciting the approval of the Higher Education minister for the establishment of the University of Plettenberg Bay.
The unhappiness from the community of New Horizons stems from the fact that there is misleading information that the establishment of such an institution at Ebenezer land threatens the housing development earmarked for that area. This is not true and must be condemned with contempt.
The current proposal that was received from Engandin Stiftung - the entity responsible for the establishment and management of the university - was for some facilities to kick-start the Transactional Law Clinic. Property identified on Ebenezer land are:
• The big building that is not been occupied; and
• The house that is being occupied by the owner who sold the land to the municipality.
These would be leased to the NGO for a period of three years, in line with the Bitou Municipality’s Property Rental Policy. The implementation of the other components of the university will go through the agreed processes. The Transactional Law Clinic is a project on its own.
Professor Anele Hammond, PHD, from Engandin Stiftung, at the ordinary council meeting on July 31 stated on record that the establishment and the operations of the institution will be funded from the university’s own coffers.
The municipality remains committed to the resolutions of the ordinary council meeting on the July 31. All processes shall be followed and this include the public participation process.
The housing development for Portion 20 of what is known as Ebenezer land has been approved and has been budgeted for. The initial plan was to create a Transitional Residential Area (TRA) of 200 houses.
However, a proposal from the Western Cape Department of Human Settlement, to build permanent top structures instead of a TRA, was approved and communicated to the leaders of the New Horizons community. The plans to develop this housing project is progressing well.
A tender to install different types of Infrastructure Services for the development, is currently in the Supply Chain System of Bitou Municipality. This is currently how far the process of developing Ebenezer land is.
There is a myth that funds earmarked for the housing development will be used for the university. This is not true and not possible because of Municipal Financial Regulations.
In conclusion, one has to caution those that seek to use this project for their own narrow interest. Bitou Council will not abandon the development of housing for the university. The project to develop housing at the Ebenezer site has always been and will always be one of the key objectives of this council.
However, the council saw value in the establishment of a university for our town and remains committed to pursue this. We do condemn with all seriousness any form of incitement of our residents to resort to violent protest. This is uncalled for and a very dangerous game to play.
Bitou mayor Peter Lobese stressed that the municipality needed to grab this opportunity because there were several other municipalities that are vying for it.
“Everything that has been done so far, is to ensure that we do not lose out to other municipalities that may grab this with open arms,” said Lobese.