“I want to share with you some thoughts on this very important matter.
This pont is the oldest and probably the last of its kind in SA. It is an icon of our region, the Overberg. It is an important part of our history, and a significant tourist attraction. Tour operators will attest to this. Generations of local inhabitants will recall the central role of this facility in their lives, and in the lives of those who have travelled afar to experience its special charm!
About three years ago someone apparently decided that the Malagas Pont must be terminated and replaced by something new. I say “someone” because ever since I raised this issue (around October 2019) no-one has been willing to own up to the decision! The ball has been passed frantically between the Overberg District Municipality (ODM) and the Provincial Government (PG).
When the termination of the Pont and its replacement by an ugly motorised yellow monstrosity was first brought to my attention I went out of my way to establish the facts. I also tried to stop the process which was already in a very advanced stage. I launched a petition (click to view) which harvested over 20 000 signatures, and met with both ODM and PG officials to press the case for the old Pont.
Undertakings were given , and promises were made, by both the ODM and PG, none of which were honoured. This is a public disgrace! This is supposed to be the DA! We are supposed to be different from the ANC! We are supposed to be the custodians of transparent and accountable government. In this instance we have failed, and we have failed badly.
No public participation processes were followed. A huge waste of scarce public resources has been committed in spending R7 million on a yellow elephant!
If there were public safety issues why was the Pont operated for years without incident after alleged safety inspections were done?
Why were more environmentally friendly and aestetically pleasing options not considered if replacement was deemed necessary?
Why was Swellendam Municipality, in whose territory the Pont is situated, not consulted?
Why was the public, and those who have used this facility for generations never consulted?
These, and other questions, were put to the various authorities but never answered.
The people of the Overberg, and over 20 000 petitioners have been betrayed. We have been badly let down, and I will continue to seek answers to reasonable questions.
In 2015, Swellendam Tourism chose the Malgas Pont as a focal point to encapsulate the diversity of the area, the people and the history of the area. In one magical image, photographer Henk Venter captured all of it, and the photo became the front cover of the Swellendam Tourism booklet. Look closely – you will see musicians, chefs, tourists, photographers, brides, hikers, cyclists, fishermen, farmers, bee keepers, rieldansers. You will see Xhosa people, Khoi people, Afrikaans and English people. You will see ‘Hendrik Swellengrebel’ and his wife. You will see the Mayor of Swellendam. To think that such an iconic piece of history can be discarded for no good reason and, seemingly without thought and consultation, is heart breaking.