By Mike Hampton
A second major investigative report spits on the Knysna Municipality’s version of events that us residents, from the beginning, screamed was untrue. We were there, cut off from the world, discovering the good and bad in ourselves, discovering the worst in a government that cannot rewrite our lives; not through lies nor through the lie of omission such as hiding the findings of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Meraka Institute.
CSIR MERAKA’S FIRE INVESTIGATION
The Knysna Municipality seemed to inappropriately investigate itself so that it wouldn’t be held liable. The Council and Directors must share the blame for the resulting lie, especially Municipal Manager Kam Chetty, Mayor Eleanore Spies and Fire Chief Clint Manuel for publicly creating it.
Residents rejected the Municipality’s statement that the cause of the fire was man-made rather that it was the lightning-induced rural fire that the Knysna and Sedgefield Fire Stations had failed to respond to for over a month. Morne Johnson, a resident in the area where the fire started, was among the credible dissenters. Afriforum was applauded by residents when their report by Dr Klatzow fingered the Municipality with facts.
This week, Noseweek, the monthly investigative magazine, revealed that Dr Philip Frost of CSIR’s Meraka Institute had conducted a third investigation that corroborated Afriforum’s. That investigation seemed to be a dismayed reaction to Fire Chief Clint Manuel using CSIR’s name to give credibility to his “scientific” findings. Municipal Manager Kam Chetty emphasised the deception by stating that, “This report included evidence and opinions of CSIR and several other scientists.” That was fake news that Google shows gained traction.
Landwater, a Facebook page that has anonymously provided valuable insight into the fire, used satellite photos to prove the Municipality wrong. It also shared a 2010 government-initiated risk analysis that predicted the disaster – Knysna is surrounded by alien tree plantations begging to become firewood.
District residents Morné Jonker, Ritchie Morris and Dr Wallace Vosloo (scientist/engineer) distanced themselves from the way their information was used in the Municipality’s report.
According to Noseweek, CSIR was upset at its name being used to give validation to the Municipality’s report. After all, their only contribution had been to identify the location of a smoulder shown in a drone photo taken by a hang-glider. Dr Frost says that CSIR had never endorsed the Municipality’s findings.
Two reports have exponentially more value than one. Together, Afriforum and CSIR’s carry weight for us victims.
So why did CSIR, a parastatal and thus in service to the Public, not share the report with the Public? And why did the Western Cape Provincial Government, whom they did share it with, also not make it public? Noseweek points out that some victims may have been prompted by its evidence to sue (presumably, the government). However, whilst the report remained secret, the 6-month deadline for litigation lapsed.
Nevertheless, at a Judge’s discretion, it could become evidence for those who’ve already initiated legal action.
WHY THIS IS THE DA’S FIRE DISASTER
My blog ‘After Knysna Fire, People With Fire’, was widely read during the first hellish week. I wrote it spontaneously from emotion, in awe of people helping each other. I wonder how despondent I and others may have become if we had then realised how our government would fail us, hurt us.
This is the DA’s disaster because of their refusal to accept responsibility, appropriately help victims, and to seemingly be involved in cover-up that benefits both the organisation and its allegiances. There’s supposed to be a separation of powers between politicians and municipal administrators but only the most naive would believe that true. Municipalities are a jostling for power and privilege that sometimes involves political party marketing spin-offs and benefits to associates.
The influence of Knysna shouldn’t be underestimated. We’re unlike other small towns. We’re one of the most well known; the home, retirement and vacation destination for the excessively rich. That fact undoubtedly boosted fire donations, a wonderful response that likely wouldn’t have been replicated by similar disasters in Oudtshoorn or Ulundi. Consequently, the negative things that happen in Knysna have the power to gain more attention nationally. Knysna is a reflection of the DA which leads both the town and the province of the Western Cape.
Acknowledgement that the fire crisis had been mishandled would add fuel to a DA already in conflict the past year. Ahead of the 2019 national election, it would tarnish their false mantra of good governance. The DA wants to avoid negative publicity no matter the cost to the Public, no matter how dirty cover-ups have become. Accountability would cost some their well-paid jobs.
What else can explain, for example, these situations:
1. Why were several high ranking people alleged to have been unqualified or illegally hired in charge during the crisis e.g. Community Services Director Dawie Adonis was clearly illegal yet the DA had long refused to remove him despite complaints laid in Cape Town. To make matters worse, he was in charge of emergency services during the fire. Several weeks into the crisis, possibly thinking a distracted Public wouldn’t notice, he was illegally given a new position at the same millionaire annual salary.?
2. Why were victims so inadequately helped despite the many donations?
3. Why has there been no investigation into the alleged gross theft of donations by municipal employees, local law enforcement and even the odd councillor?
4. Why wasn’t a municipal field converted into a tent village? What happened to the tents that were donated? It’s frightening how alone most victims were in trying to find shelter.
5. Why did the DA attempt to portray victims at a public meeting as a ‘lynch mob’ when recordings clearly show that was untrue and that the victims were merely seeking answers and help. The DA went so far as to state that helping the homeless wasn’t their responsibility and then victimised the victims on Facebook.
6. Why has there been no investigation by the DA Federal Executive or Premier Helen Zille into complaints regarding government intimidation and propaganda? One report sent by this writer was comprehensive. I’ve hesitated to share it publicly because one of the those desperately needing investigation, a neighbour of several politicians, has a interim restraining order against me for harassment. I will be laying charges against him for perjury.
7. Fire Chief Clinton Manuel threatened me too. Why did the DA fail to investigate and protect me?
8. Why did Mayor Eleanore Spies and Speaker Georlene Wolmarans illegally use public funds to threaten me with lawyers?
9. Councillor Dr Martin Young, who is the DA’s local cyberstalker and social media slug , threatened to sue 200 citizens for R60-million. He threatened a citizen with a lawsuit for putting up a petition regarding the fire. He clearly didn’t wish accountability regards the disaster whilst he criticised Afriforum’s report and supported the Fire Chief’s position. Why did he lie that this writer, their main critic, wasn’t a victim but instead seeking to abuse the public? His later apology was hollow in the context of years of insidiousness. There’s possible truth to the rumour that the DA’s Cape Town leadership, who never acknowledged my complaint, secretly forced him to apologise in light of how bad his lie was making them look.
I’m under attack because the DA will do anything to stop the mass public knowing the truth about them, their ongoing corruption and the cause of the fire’s massive destruction.
CRIMINAL DA LEADERSHIP
It’s fair to say that none can respond perfectly to natural disaster but that doesn’t excuse what the politicians have done, and are doing, to Knysna. Dirty actions and deceit known to leadership lights the DA up as an organisation that lacks integrity; putting image, the aim for power and friendships ahead of victims.
This isn’t the lonely opinion of a blogger (and our incestuous politics ensures that I belong to no party and have no hidden agenda). Locally, the DA is experiencing major backlash, most notably by white people who previously voted for them. Next time you’re a visitor in our town, ask locals what they think. This revolt wasn’t instant. The firewood of corruption was stacked before June 7 2017 lit it.
Before blindly biased readers stand up for the DA, follow the links and read the evidence. It will shock any decent human being. Imagine if it had happened to you – if your child had died or you’d lost your possessions.
Let the facts of the fire gain gravity in your mind: It killed 8 people which included 2 toddlers and an unborn child, initially made an estimated 2500 unemployed and caused billions of rands in damage that included the destruction of 487 houses. The disaster isn’t over. For many, including this writer in exile, the struggle continues 7 months later…
…and our town, already deeply troubled, will be rocked by massive civil litigation claims. We will suffer in every direction….
…but we can hang onto our own decency by demanding truth, and standing up for it.
Noseweek, like most media, has lost integrity for ignoring years of evidence involving DA corruption but their latest article, strangely unaccredited, must be thanked for playing a part in helping substantiate the rights of the victims of the Great Knysna Fire. Be one of the lucky ones to grab a copy at CNA before it sells out.
CSIR, please find your moral compass and make your report available for Public download. Help defend our lives.
Click the link below if you want CSIR to make their Knysna Fire investigation public: