Monday, January 31, 2011

STELLENBOSCH MUNICIPALITY “THROWS” JOURNALISTS OUT OF MEETING




On Monday 24th January 2011 representatives of The TATIB Foundation met at the offices of the Municipal Manager, Stellenbosch.

Prior to the meeting we sent them a covering letter, discussing the issues and attaching relevant documentation.

Click here to read the letter:

The official “Agenda” of the meeting can be found here:



The following people attended:


Jurgen Schirmacher        :    Chairman , The TATIB Foundation
Ian Odendaal                 :    TATIB member
Amanda Odendaal         :    TATIB member
Hendrik Kotze               :    TATIB member
Angus Begg                   :    TATIB member
Basil Davidson               :    Dir Planning & Dev Stellenbosch Municipality
Mervin Williams             :     Legal Advisor Stellenbosch Municipality
Portia Bolton                 :    Parks Dept Stellenbosch Municipality
Bernabe de la Bat          :    Spatial Planning Stellenbosch Municipality
Alice Wilton                   :    Public Safety Stellenbosch Municipality
Andre vd Merwe            :   Cape Winelands District Municipality (CWDM)
Theresa Davids              :    CWDM
Funeka Bongweni           :    CWDM
Leon Du Toit                  :    National Dept of Agriculture  (NDA)
Greg Daniels                   :    Cullinan & Associates
Lia Kleynhans                 :          Cullinan & Associates
Gerhard Erasmus            :    Planning Services
Elma Pollard                   :    Green Times
Norman McFarlane        :    Bolander



Whilst The TATIB Foundation had invited both Municipal Managers (David Daniels: Stellenbosch Municipality & Mike Mgajo: CWDM) to attend, they did not bother to arrive, despite making an undertaking that they would be present.

We wish to place on record, that both Municipal Managers have never replied to any of the correspondence that we have addressed to them in the past.   Perhaps they have forgotten who voted them in?  Perhaps they have forgotten that they are in fact here to serve?  Or are they only interested in that large pay cheque at the end of every month?

We also wish to place on record that fact that TATIB has had to cover the costs of the legal and town planning experts who, not only attended the meeting, but also prepared and submitted various reports, opinions and documentation. In contrast to this, the Municipal Officials, including the Municipal Managers, actually get paid, by the taxpayers, to do their jobs and attend such meetings (or not to attend them in this case !)



THE REMOVAL OF THE MEDIA FROM THE MEETING


Basil Davison, assumed “chairmanship” of the meeting that TATIB had set up.  He also attempted to discard our Agenda  (We leave it up to the readers to decide why) and when he found out that a few journalists were present, refused to go on with the meeting, unless they left the room. He stated that they  (Municipal Officials) had consulted with the Municipal Manager and that they did not want to have members of the media present as the meeting was going to be of a technical and exploratory nature.

Davidson went on to say that he had been instructed that it was not their policy to have the media present. Norman McFarlane of The Bolander then asked Davidson upon whose instruction such an order had been made. Davidson quickly backtracked and stated that it was  “ Municipal Policy” and not any person in particular. To this Norman McFarlane asked for a copy of the document/policy in which it clearly stated that the media was not permitted to be present at the meeting. Davidson undertook to look for a copy of the alleged policy and to provide the media with this. We doubt that any such document or policy exists.

Of course we all know that the Municipality did not want the press to be present because they do not want this issue being made public. They are fully aware that they have not taken any steps to address the spray drift problem. Clearly they don’t want to conduct their business in an open and transparent manner, and this leads us to suspect that they have something to hide.

We have all seen the many media reports about corruption at Stellenbosch Municipality and so we expect that they would certainly have something to hide.

The comments of Norman McFarlane have been posted to the following link:



Norman then followed up with a letter dated 25 January 2011, which he sent to the Municipal Manager, David Daniels: -



 There is also an interesting opinion that appeared in Die Burger of 27 January 2011
“Ons dorp, Skelmbos, laat sy kop sak “





EXPOSURE TO TOXIC PESTICIDES AS A RESULT OF SPRAY DRIFT IN AND AROUND STELLENBOSCH


The average vineyard in the Western Cape is sprayed by means of centrifugal “mist blowers”.   These are in effect, a torpedo shaped tank that is pulled behind a tractor, which discharges up to 8000 litres of pesticide at a nozzle jet speed of 600km/h.  To the layman, these devices produce large clouds of toxic spray drift that is discharged from the machine with great force and at a high velocity.

More info to be found at: 



The problem of spray drift, of toxic pesticides, has been well documented in the Western Cape and also in other areas where vines and orchards are to be found. Professor Leslie London is considered to be the expert on this topic.



Every  “chemical” product registered for Agricultural use in South Africa has to be registered under Act 36 of 1947 of the NDA

Each agricultural chemical, by law, has to be supplied with a so-called “Product Label “  (instructions for use).

The Product Label contains the statutory precautions and instructions for ‘safe use’ of the product.  All Product Labels, for example, would make mention that one must “avoid spray drift into areas that are not under treatment”. In other words, spray drift is not permitted to be blown out of a vineyard and into a residential area.

If one fails to adhere to the instructions of the Product Label, this constitutes a breach of Act 36 of 1947, making the spraying unlawful (for obvious reasons).

The National Department of Agriculture has realized that Act36 of 1947 is old and outdated and in this regard they have recently released a new “Pesticide Management Policy”to address the shortcomings.  It makes for very interesting reading as it clearly acknowledges that the NDA has now finally “seen the light” and that they too are of the opinion that spray drift of toxic pesticides is a problem.  There is even mention, within the abovementioned Policy of transparency and the right to information relating to what is being sprayed.

Click here for more info:


During the past couple of years, we have received a large number of complaints, of spray drift, from the residents of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Somerset West and Paarl.   TATIB have investigated these complaints and have ample evidence that shows large clouds of potentially toxic spray drift being blown into the residential areas.

We have complained to both Municipal Managers in writing, but our letters have been ignored.   In November 2009, Angela Andrews of the LRC (attorneys representing TATIB / the residents) sent a letter to both Municipalities.

Click here:



Stellenbosch Municipality, true to form, did not bother to respond. CWDM however did respond in a letter dated 29 January 2010. In their letter, CWDM specifically state that spray drift is an “air pollution issue” and as such needs to be addressed by the local Municipality which in the case of Stellenbosch & Franschhoek is Stellenbosch Municipality.ie Stellenbosch Municipality is responsible for enforcement and remedy.

None of our requests, as per points 1-4 on pages 7 & 8 (of Angela Andrews’s letter )  were met by either of the Municipalities.

Angela Andrew’s letter of 30 November 2009 makes it very clear that both Municipalities are mandated, by law, to protect the innocent bystanders (residents, students, farm workers) from an environment that is clearly hazardous to their health.
The various laws are clearly detailed and discussed in her letter and there is no confusion as to who is responsible for enforcing the law in this regard.

Attached also find a “Synoptic List” of the side effects and special warnings that the LRC had prepared after careful research into the agricultural chemicals that are used in the area.

See link: 




On 27 January 2010, a meeting was held in Stellenbosch at which representatives of both Municipalities, Provincial Administration & Agriculture were present. There were also a large number of complainants (residents), and the press, present.  This meeting had been arranged so as to address the concerns raised within Angela Andrews’ letter of 30 November 2009.

The Municipal officials present did admit, after speaking with the residents and being shown the ample evidence, that exposure to toxic pesticides, due to spray drift, was a serious problem in the area and that an  “air quality management plan” needed to be implemented urgently and steps put in place to protect the residents.

In this regard  Stellenbosch Municipality held two meetings on 12 May & 25 May 2010 respectively.

The links to the official minutes of these meetings are to be found below:

Please refer to pages 11 & 40 respectively.





 An undertaking was made to appoint Gondwana Environmental Solutions  to be contracted to complete the  “Air Quality Management Plan” for Stellenbosch Municipality and that consultancy fees be made available according to the already approved budget.


Despite the undertakings made by Stellenbosch Municipality, nothing has been done to address the problem or find a solution to it.


At the meeting of 24 January 2011, both Municipalities attempted to make it the responsibility of the National Department of Agriculture, to enforce the problem of spray drift. 

The TATIB Foundation had 3 legal representatives present at the meeting. These are amongst the top environmental attorneys in the country, and it was quickly pointed out to both Municipalities that in fact they have a  “ Duty of Care” and that they really need to do something about the problem, or face the consequences.

We are not going to go into great detail as to all the laws that are in place in this regard. But if you read the letter from Angela Andrews and then also the letter from Greg Daniels  (Cullinan & Associates) of 28 January 2011, it is very clear that both Municipalities do have a responsibility.  It is also very obvious that they have little or no understanding of the law with regards to spray drift.

Greg Daniels’ letter can be found here:

http://www.scribd.com/Letter-to-Municpality/d/47932907


Also attached, please find the Air Quality Management Plan for the Western Cape.

Pages 26 to 29 specifically deal with the responsibilities of the Municipalities. 3  (i) on page 27 states  " Most Municipalities have not fully accepted their responsibility in terms of the implementation of the  NEM:AQA "

There is thus no doubt in our minds, that the Municipalities are responsible for this, and that true to form (as they are incompetent  bureaucrats)  they are looking to make someone else responsible.

click here for the document :

http://www.capegateway.gov.za/other/2010/11/aqmp_opt.pdf


When TATIB asked whether Gondwana had done any work on the air quality management plan, we were told that Stellenbosch Municipality had received a quotation of over R300 000.00 for this and that they did not have the budget.  When we asked them for a copy of the quotation (so as to confirm this) and also a copy of the request for said quotation, they refused to furnish us with these documents.   We feel that there never were any documents, and that they have in fact not even addressed the issue. Surely we, as taxpayers, have a right to these documents in terms of the Promotion of Access to Public Information Act?  Just as we have the right to know what remuneration our Municipal Managers receive?

It was interesting to take note of how the various municipal officials reacted to our allegation, that they had done nothing to rectify the problem.  They became extremely “defensive” and tried very hard to discredit TATIB in the process, becoming quite hostile at times.



STIAS VINEYARD ZONING ISSUE


This issue has been fully dealt with in our earlier post on this blogspot:

 “NEGOTIATIONS WITH UNIVERSITY OF STELLENBOSCH BREAK DOWN “


When presented with the factual documentation & evidence, that the STIAS vineyard was an unlawful vineyard, Basil Davidson stated asked the following question:

  “  Was that vineyard there when you bought into the property adjacent?”  

What Davidson was attempting to do, with this question, was to say that if and when Ian  & Amanda Odendaal purchased their property, the STIAS Vineyard was already in place, they would be unable to complain about its unlawfulness. 

TATIBS legal representatives quickly pointed out that even if the STIAS Vineyard was there before the Odendaals had purchased their property (which it was not) , this would not make the current use of the STIAS Vineyard legal, or acceptable.

When Jurgen Schirmacher & his family were exposed to clouds of toxic spray drift in Riebeek-Kasteel, the farmer and his attorneys told them:

  “ We were here first. If you don’t want to be poisoned then we suggest that you voetsek back to Cape Town where you came from!!” 

Ironically when the Schirmacher’s purchased their property in Riebeek-Kasteel, the adjacent land was vacant and not even owned by the farmer in question. Only 18 months after they moved in, did the farmer purchase the land and plant it under table grapes.

There thus seems to be a misconception that “Die Boere was hier eerste!” and that because of this they can do anything that they want to do – even break the law.  I think that it is this “mentality” that has resulted in the problems that we have encountered.

When we brought up this issue at the meeting of 24 January 2011, the municipal officials clearly tried to evade our questions. They mentioned that they would investigate to see if the STIAS vineyard was in fact an agricultural vineyard, furthermore making mention of a “lapse in rezoning “ and “ a Grandfather Clause “. 


Basil Davidson went on to state:

 “Certainly from a public point of view we would like it to be used for housing, you know we are particularly also in housing as a function of mine and we are always looking for housing land, particularly public housing”

They have however undertaken to investigate the matter and to come back to us.

Gerhard Erasmus, a Town Planner from Planserv had the following to say:




UNLAWFUL SPRAYING OF THE OAK TREES IN AND AROUND STELLENBOSCH & PAARL


TATIB has received a number of complaints from residents of both Paarl and Stellenbosch, following their being exposed to clouds of spray drift that result from when the oak trees (in public streets) are sprayed.

After further investigations we managed to speak with the companies that had been doing the spraying for Stellenbosch Municipality and uncovered the details of what had been sprayed.  Bumper / Tilt   & Rubigan, all fungicides, have been used to spray the oak trees as a treatment against mildew.

We also contacted Drakenstein Municipality, who forwarded us their Notice of Spraying



The Product Labels can be found here:





As is evident in the above notice, the names of the products are clearly listed and then special warning is made that the residents are to remain indoors during the spraying and to ensure that all doors and windows are closed.  This is a clear admission that Drakenstein Municipality are unable to control the spray drift during the treatment of the oak trees and are thus advising the public to stay indoors during said spraying.

More on the spraying of the Oak Trees can be found in some older posts on the Tatib Blogspot: www.tatibfoundation.blogspot.com

There are also articles to be found in:

Paarl Post “ To Spray or Not “:   


Green Times:



A resident of Paarl, also sent this letter in to Paarl Post: -


Due to complaints and toxicity issues of these products, Stellenbosch Municipality has now admitted that it no longer uses these products and instead uses a foliar feed.  The rationale behind this is that by beefing up the trees natural immune system, the tree will be less susceptible to fungal attacks.

Portia Bolton, at the meeting of 24 January 2011 stated:

“As I said before we only use a liquid fertilizer on the trees and that is not to for fungicides and not directly used to combat the affects of the mildew that’s affecting the Oaks.  It is basically a nutritional supplement which is applied as a foliar feed and not at the base and that information I did give through to you.  I am aware that Drakenstein Municipality use Bumper, Tilt & Rubigan, all sorts of stuff, and I have taken a decision not to apply those chemicals because of the toxicity issue with this product.  So we don’t use any pesticides on our Oak Trees.” 


When TATIB complained to Drakenstein Municipality, their Municipal Manager (like most Municipal Managers)  ignored our emails and never bothered to respond. The person responsible for the spraying is one Albert vd Merwe, who was of the opinion that the three products Bumper/Tilt and Rubigan posed no health risks to the residents.

Drakenstein continued to spray the oak trees in Paarl with no regards to the law and when more complaints were lodged with them, TATIB received a letter from their attorneys.

See attached letter from Van Der Spuy & Partners dated 22/11/2010

Click here:


TATIB responded to them on 24/11/2010, giving them the information that they had requested in their letter of 22/11/2010.

Click here:  

To this Van Der Spuy & Partners sent us another letter dated 18/01/2010

Click here: 



To date, Drakenstein has continued to spray their oak trees in such a way that clouds of spray drift get blown into peoples gardens and homes. They have also tried to garner public support by saying that unless the trees are sprayed with fungicide, they will die.  Portia Bolton, at the meeting of 24 January 2011 confirmed that this would not happen.

At the meeting of 24 January 2011, Funeka Bongweni (CWDM) attempted to put TATIB on the spot by alleging that because we had not given Van Der Spuy & Partners the information that they had requested in their letter of 22/11/2010  (which we clearly had via our letter of 24/11/2010) the ball was now in our court.

In this regard Funeka Bongweni read out loud, the letter from Van Der Spuy that she had in her possession.   We quickly pointed out to her, and all the others present, that we had in fact replied to Van Der Spuy on 24/11/2010 and that we had copied various CWDM officials in on this email. In other words she was barking up the wrong tree and should have done her homework before attempting to cast dispersions our way.

Following the meeting of 24th January 2011, TATIB sent out an email to all that had attended (as well as to those that had been invited) in which me mentioned the facts regarding the allegations made by Funeka Bongweni, furthermore attaching our letter of 24/11/2010 that we sent to Van Der Spuy (and copied to CWDM)


Funeka Bongweni, true to form, has not yet responded to our email, however we received an email on 25 January 2011 from Dr Weziwe Zandile Mahlangu, Executive Director, Community and Developmental Services, Cape Winelands District Municipality, in which the following words appeared:

“ HAYI, NDIHLAMBA IZANDLA SISI! “

This was mistakenly sent to us by Mahlangu and was in fact only meant for the eyes of Funeka Bongweni.

We have been told that the words, roughly translated are   “ Wash your hands of this sister! “   Or  “ Sister, I have washed my hands of this! “

And this is coming from a “Municipal Official” who is paid to do a job?  Clearly it shows that certain people within CWDM feel that this is not a serious issue and that they would rather wash their hands of it.

Drakenstein Municipality are the “end user” when it comes to the spraying of Tilt / Bumper & Rubigan on the oak trees.  It is their responsibility, under Act 36 of 1947, to obey the law and to ensure that no product ends up in people’s gardens or gets blown into their houses.   We also wonder if the person applying the fungicides is actually a registered pesticide control operator, which is also law under the act.


Click on this link to also see the PCO Regulations:



Stellenbosch Municipality has undertaken to get back to us with the information that we have requested and to furthermore convene another meeting in a month’s time.

We have in turn sent an email to Basil Davidson, requesting him to furnish us with the minutes of the meeting of 24 January 2011 (seeing that he hijacked the meeting and made himself chairman) and to do so by close of business on Friday 04 February 2011.  In this regard we have not yet had the courtesy of a response or an acknowledgement of our email.


Watch this space, and the press, for more details and developments!!








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