Tuesday, March 22, 2011

STELLENBOSCH MUNICIPALITY "STALLS" OUR REQUEST OF ACCESS TO PUBLIC INFORMATION



On 09 February 2011, our attorneys made a request, in terms of Section 26 of the Promotion of Access to Public Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA), that Stellenbosch Municipality furnish us with information and answers to certain questions. The information that we are seeking, is in the best interests of the public, ratepayers, property owners, students and residents of Stellenbosch.

We paid the prescribed fee and Ateeqa Hoosain (Senior Legal Advisor Stellenbosch Municipality: ateeqah@stellenbosch.org) acknowledged receipt of the request, and the cheque payment, on 11 February 2011.
Our attorney's request, under PAIA, is to be found here  :


If you read "ANNEX A" on page 7 of the above document, it will be obvious to you, that the information we have requested from Stellenbosch Municipality is not only in the best public interest, but is also information that Stellenbosch Municipality should easily have at their disposal.

Under PAIA, Stellenbosch Municipality have to (by law)  furnish us with the requested information within 30 days of such request.

In this regard, Keith Ford (Information Officer Stellenbosch Municipality: keithf@stellenbosch.org) , has "extended"  the period by another 30 days.   See his letter by clicking on the link below.



With regards to the above, we have a few questions:-

  1. Why are Stellenbosch Municipality unable to provide us with answers to the questions that we put to them, under PAIA, on 09 February 2011.
  2. As the information that we have requested is information that they should have at their disposal, why have they been unable to adhere to our request within the given time period. (they have had 41 days which they have now extended by another 30 days !!) ?
  3. Why do they need more time ? What have they done to address this issue over the last 41 days?
  4. Why have they ignored our requests that they furnish us with copies of the minutes of our meeting of 24 January 2011?
  5. Why have they refused to answer the questions put to them by Norman McFarlane of Bolander newspaper ? Why have they attempted to 'coerce' him into a private, off the record meeting, rather than respond to him in writing ?
  6. Do they have something to hide ?
  7.  
    Perhaps you, the readers can shed some light on this ?  We value your opinions.














      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

      MINUTES OF MUNICIPAL MEETING

      On 24 January 2011, The TATIB Foundation met with various officials from Stellenbosch & Cape Winelands District Municipality.

      As Basil Davidson of Stellenbosch Municipality appointed himself as "chairman" of the meeting of 24/01/2011 , TATIB requested that he / Stellenbosch Municipality, furnish us with the official minutes of the meeting.

      As we have not received the minutes from Davidson, we have prepared and submitted our version of the minutes of the meeting, and can confirm that these have been sent out to all who were present, and that they have been approved.

      Click here to read the official minutes :

      On 11 February 2011, our attorneys, under The Promotion of Access to Information Act  (PAIA) sent a letter of request (together with a cheque payment - as prescribed by law)  to Stellenbosch Municipality  (see our posting of 13 February 2011  " Why wont Stellenbosch Municipality Cooperate ?) in which we requested  certain documentation.   

      We understand that Stellenbosch Municipality have now "cleared" the cheque payment and that they have until 20 March 2011 to furnish us with the requested information. As this information is in the best interests of the public, we shall upload it to this blogspot as soon as we have received it.



      Thursday, March 10, 2011

      Stop endosulfan lobby’s effort to block global ban


       A known killer and toxic to the environment, the pesticide Endosulfan remains a serious health hazard. 

      Despite being banned in 62 countries, its continued production and use continues to poison and people and environments as a number of countries, led by India, stand in the way of a global ban. A new report to be released by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) details the environmental and human impacts of one of the world’s most dangerous and pervasive pesticides, highlighting why it should be banned globally.

      Next month in Geneva, the global community will decide whether to ban the dangerous neurotoxic pesticide, endosulfan.  

      It has been widely used in South Africa,  in small towns, like Riebeek-Kasteel , Stellenbosch,  Franschhoek, that are nestled amongst the vineyards & orchards.


      Read more about Endosulfan   :
      http://www.scribd.com/doc/50489909/End-of-the-Road-for-Endosulfan

      Or download the PDF from  : 
      http://www.ejfoundation.org/pdf/end_of_the_road_for_endosulfan.pdf


      Take Action:                        
      http://action.panna.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6130








      DEATH IN SMALL DOSES

      Pesticides have played a role in increasing crop yields and food security but, in contrast to modern products marketed in the developed world, many pesticides used in developing countries fail to meet international quality standards.

      Please click on the link below to read a comprehensive report produced by The Environmental Justice Foundation:

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/50425647/death-in-small-doses

      Or download the PDF from :   

      http://www.ejfoundation.org/pdf/death_in_small_doses.pdf






      Friday, March 4, 2011

      Farmer's Weekly

      Two articles have recently appeared in "Farmer's Weekly" magazine.

      The first is an interview with Gerhard Verdoorn, spokesperson for the agricultural chemical industry in South Africa.   Whenever there is negative media publicity about the agrichemical industry in South Africa, Verdoorn is first to jump on the bandwagon in an attempt to trash everyone else's opinion and to put out the fires.

      In an earlier blog  (Tues 28 Sept 2010  "Are the experts pulling the wool over the eyes of South Africans") we discussed Verdoorn's motives.

      The articles below, give you both sides of the story, and we leave it up to you, the readers, as to why Verdoorn would take the stance that he does.


      Lobbyists base arguments on fiction, not fact
      Farmer's Weekly  31-01-2011




      “Those lobbying against pesticides are looking for a soft target and an easy way to make money,” he added. “They base their arguments on assumptions and twist the truth to suit them. The so-called facts they publish are simply hogwash.”

      And technology has made the dissemination of false information even easier. “Anyone can start their own website or send damaging e-mails driving their own opinions as fact.”Glyphosate, for example, has been labelled the most carcinogenic substance in the world by lobbyists. But if this was the case, we would all have been dead a long time ago, said Dr Verdoorn. “It’s also been said that South African farmers use banned substances. But just because something is banned in other countries, doesn’t mean it’s banned here. The conditions everywhere are different.“Lobbyists exploit the fact that there have been a few incidents in the past where pesticides were used incorrectly and problems followed. But these were isolated incidents where the instructions were not followed.”

      Unfortunately, they’re remembered forever and cited as the norm, said Dr Verdoorn.He added that the public is often misled into overlooking other factors that cause illness – like the changing of the seasons and air pollution. “It’s then easier to blame pesticides for asthma, headaches and hay fever because someone has seen it being sprayed on a nearby farm.”Scientists need to challenge lobbyists who seek to disseminate misleading or false information, said Dr Verdoorn. But unfortunately, they’re often too busy with research to pay attention to unfounded reports. Or else, when they do comment, they do so anonymously, and an unknown source isn’t “credible,” he cautioned. – Lindi van Rooyen


      Who are the ‘Lobbyists’?
      Farmer's Weekly  18-02-2011

      Click on link to see full story including images


      One of my favourite pictures of my father is of him standing in his Sunday best among the cherry blossoms in his beautiful garden. He was an avid gardener and so was my mother. They both loved flowers.
      I contracted polio as a child, during the Second World War. In the lean years that followed, with my father’s meagre income as a railway clerk, my mother grew flowers to pay for my treatment. She sold them door-to-door until she had a regular clientele among the wealthier people in our neighbourhood, who bought her flowers every weekend.

      It was also the age of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) – the magic powder, developed during the war. We had no reason to fear DDT, as it was said to be safe to use. The word “cancer” was still unknown to us. My mother used it copiously to stop insects from damaging her flowers and often came into the house covered in white powder. I spent much of my time helping her.
      Later my father, who first specialised in roses, became fascinated by aloes and was quite liberal in his insecticide use to protect them against the many bugs. I, however, was more interested in the multitude of insects – but they’re largely gone now and so are my father and mother.
      My mother was the first to get cancer and, after a long battle, lost the fight against it. My father also got cancer and so did I. Fortunately, the surgeon’s scalpel could cut mine away, but my father died. Only my brother, born after my mother’s flower-selling days, has been cancer-free. And as far as I could determine, cancer never affected any of our ancestors.

      Puzzling news report and cooked research

      Nobody can blame me for being suspicious about the excessive use of chemicals to which we were constantly exposed, but to which our bodies had little resistance. In my younger days I noticed a huge raptor decline, equipped myself with toxicological knowledge, and travelled countrywide to deliver hundreds of lectures and talks to farmers, gardeners and housewives about wise pesticide use.

      This brings me to a Farmer’s Weekly news report “Lobbyists base arguments on fiction, not facts” by Lindi van Rooyen (4 February 2011 issue), which I found rather puzzling, to say the least. Lindi reports on a paper presented by Griffon Poison Information Centre (GPIC) spokesperson Dr Gerhard Verdoorn at the Combined Congress in Pretoria. She quotes Dr Verdoorn: “Those lobbying against pesticides are looking for a soft target and an easy way to make money. They base their arguments on assumptions and twist the truth to suit them. The so-called facts they publish are simply hogwash.” The words “lobbyists”, “lobbying” and “lobbyist” appear five times in this short report.

      These words made me wonder what was behind them. I first thought the news report might have contained comments, from various sources, on the biased and subsequently discredited report by CropLife SA about its investigation in and around the town of Groblersdal into how pesticide residues inhibit the immune system. Of the 50 pesticides “most sprayed” by air during the 2008/2009 season, the company sampled only two – number 19 and 21 on the list. The third pesticide the company sampled wasn’t even on the list. Methomyl, sprayed 133 times, was number one on the top-50 list. The top five pesticides were sprayed a combined 290 times, while the two that CropLife SA sampled were only sprayed 19 times. The company only took samples in citrus orchards, not cotton or maize lands where extensive aerial spraying was done.

      Was it a case of crooked scientists and cooked research?

      Government on the right track

      I was still pondering this when I read a notice in the Government Gazette (24 December 2010 issue) by agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. The department’s policy on pesticide control is to be amended, and the minister intends to replace the 60-year-old Act 38 of 1947 with a new act. Old pesticides and those with high risk to human health and the environment are to be re-evaluated, and many could be banned. This would mean a healthier environment and food, less overcrowding in hospitals, an improved image of agriculture and perhaps a more responsible agro-chemical industry. The minister must be commended if she achieves this.
      The notice states that, “Scientific and medical journals increasingly report the risks posed to human health by pesticides, including links between pesticides and diseases such as cancer and hormone disruption”. This presumably also applies to the “so-called facts” that “are simply hogwash”.

      The document continues, “The mounting evidence of the negative impacts of pesticides on wildlife and the environment has prompted South Africans to register their disapproval of pesticides and take action to reduce their use”. Are these South Africans the “lobbyists” referred to in the news report? That this would cause extreme anxiety and panic in the chemical industry is understandable. The industry still makes easy money with many pesticides which have been banned in the rest of the developed world long ago, and are now dirt-cheap on international markets. Its reckless party could soon end. But why should this concern and upset Dr Verdoorn? In light of what I wrote last week about our vulture population’s shocking demise, also from the illegal use of the pesticide aldicarb, does the GPIC not welcome stricter control?

      Does the dissemination of this information and the fact that, for many years, I warned against the irresponsible and excessive misuse of pesticides make me a lobbyist? I hope not. Or did I only do what the GPIC should have been doing? A dictionary defines a “lobbyist” as “someone who is employed to persuade legislators to vote for legislation that favours the lobbyist’s employer”. Who, then, are the true lobbyists?
      Is it not those who, in the coming weeks, will beat a path to minister Tina’s door to persuade her to forgo her intended plans? I trust the GPIC won’t be among them.
      Contact AbrĂ© J Steyn on 083 235 4822 or email abrejsteyn@vodamail.co.za.