A Public Disgrace

A Public Disgrace

Malagas Pont…a public disgrace

From Mayor Nicholas Myburgh:

“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.

“Ugly Yellow Monstrosity”

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.

Photos from Malgas Pont Facebook page:

Click here to view

John Paisley: JUNE 19th

DisaPONTment! Ian had never crossed the Breede on the Malagas pont so we set off on our bikes for the experience. When we got there, the pont was drawn up on the opposite bank….with no one around. We waited and called…but no response. So we had to turn back and do a 100km extra to get to the other side. My issue: why are there no signs on any roads indicating the pont is not working? I can imagine how many people drive all the way, only to have to turn back. And why no public announcement?
Who is responsible for the pont operation?

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. 

16 Comments


  1. Elsie

    150% with you on this one Mr. Mayor! I am sure all residents will bacK you up if needed.
    I for one have not yet had the opportunity to see the famous old pont and was looking forward to when “lockdown” was over to make a trip that side with my family from Cape Town.
    What a disappointment.

    Reply
  2. Wendie

    Our great friends The Shackleys from Swellendam and now Buffeljagsrivier who heavily promote tourism in the area took us here on one of our trips to beautiful South Africa. We loved experiencing this special place and are so sad that some nameless person has decided to stop it operating. It draws tourists not once but many times as it is so special. If no one is owning up to the decision to stop it, it seems to me that the strength of your petition show that all those named people who want a different decision should be listened to. They are not hiding.

    Reply
  3. David Thomas

    Outrageous. Outrageous. Why do we have to rip out everything of the past which is perfectly adequate for the present ?

    Reply
  4. Richard van Schalkwyk

    I am thrilled our mayor now realises that his party, the DA, do not really care for our residents of the Swellendam area but more importantly will chase the same votes at the next election that the ANC are after.
    We warned before the previous election and were criticised heavily by the DA and particularly Debbie Shafer, the DA hierarchy is not pro the residents of Swellendam but has a hidden agenda with our municipal area. The birds have NOW come home to roost.
    Proudly FF+
    Richard van Schalkwyk

    Reply
    1. Nicholas Myburgh

      Richard van Schalkwyk can be expected to take a cheap shot at the DA. Everyone with more than three brain cells and who has the most basic observation skills knows that the DA does an infinitely better job at governing than any other party in this country. He is very wrong, and predictably oppertunistic, if he thought this is a nice DA-bashing moment! This is not about narrow party politics but about service delivery and accountability. The DA is not beyond reproach, and is always willing to rectify a mistake. We are a democratic party that respects robust debate, and will always try to do the right thing. The debate about the Malagas Pont has been in the public domain for some time now, and this is part of an ongoing discussion, with or without the ‘kansvatters’!

      Reply
    2. Rinda

      People like you are exactly the reason I will never vote for the FF+, Cheap shot, really.

      Reply
    3. Concerned

      I’m not interested in getting into a political debate about anything here, but would very much like to know more about this “agenda” that the DA would have in our town?

      Reply
  5. Willemina

    It is certainly destructive to impose this expensive option – our history totally disregarded, and again, no true public participation! Illegal proceedings? No way of halting the process, or turning it around? Were local people involved in inspecting the pont for structural problems?
    Next thing is a R17m tar road to Malgas? hahaha

    Reply
  6. Ronél Dunn

    Ek het op Swellendam Toerisme se fb blad ook gereageer. Ek is meer as teleurgesteld, ek meer as hartseer en baie meer as net kwaad. Innerlik bloei ek.
    Hoewel ek nie meer in Swellendam woon nie, was dit my woonplek vir 22 jaar en my skoonmense het ‘n baie sterk band met Swellendam gehad vir meer as een geslag. Moxie Dunn was ‘n kleinneef van my skoonpa, John Henry Dunn sr. Laasgenoemde was by sy aftrede hoofpadinspekteur van die Afdelingsraad. Ek sou graag wou weet wat hy hiervan dink. My swaer, Eugene Dunn van Bredasdorp was een van die enigstes wat onderwater sweiswerk kan doen en was gereeld gevra om herstelwerk te doen. Die groot, galgeel verskrikking waarmee die ou pont vervang is, laat trane in my hart en oë opstoot. Die mors van kosbare geld deur ‘n regering wat gereeld ‘fix which ain’t broke’, maar niks wat hulle oorgeneem het – soos SAL – instand kan hou nie, dis makliker om China te vra om dit te vervang …
    Ek staan baie sterk agter die geëerde Burgemeester en sal weer elke petisie wat ek sien, teken soos ek reeds gedoen het.

    Reply
  7. Neels Nothling

    We take our overseas guests and our over the Orange guests to the pont and always a highlight!
    A part of our heritage now down the drain!

    Reply
  8. Andre ZS1AZ

    It is vey easy to find out who did what. That monstrosity did not fall out of the sky. Find out who built it, who transported it and who gave those tractor drivers permission to do what they did? In other words, follow the money trail. If our municipality cannot do this, they are hopeless.

    Reply
  9. Dave Guy

    I am afraid that many of the powers to be have no appreciation of the country’s heritage.
    Very sad. But what can one do?

    Reply
  10. Swellendam Heritage Association

    Dear Heritage Friends,
    We are shocked by this betrayal of promises made to us.
    Early this year we wrote letters to Heritage Western Cape, the Mayor of the Overberg Municipality and were also in discussion with the Premier of the Western Cape Government.
    We were assured that the old Pont would remain in service to preserve the Heritage of this old icon, and that the new one would operate in support.
    To ensure that this remained the case, we were also in the process of having the Pont declared a National Monument.
    So in support of the Major we are asking the person or persons responsible for this act to stand up and be accountable.
    Alf Hunter
    Chairman – Swellendam Heritage Association

    Reply
  11. Renate Advocaat

    A disgrace it is that a very autocratic decision was taken to remove a major tourist attraction and detrimental part of the Overberg’s history. The pull over ferry, loved by young and old, was replaced by a motorized plastic “gedrocht”. How democratic is the Overberg actually that despite all our signatures and demands have been ignored??
    I think it is time for our right to get information via PAIA and get to the bottom
    of this.
    I have a few questions…..

    – who decided that the ferry had to get out and why
    – what were the instructions for the procurement of the new plastic pontoon?
    – was a tender sent out? If not, why not? We would like to see the tender document and the documents of the companies that tendered
    – with what money was the gedrocht paid for (which budget)
    – what was the price of this horrible thing?
    – If it was donated, by who was it donated and why? What did Overberg municipality get in return.
    – why were stakeholders not informed?
    – why were suggestions by stakeholders arrogantly and undemocratically ignored?

    What Are the next surprises we are going to get? A gas pipeline right through De Hoop Nature Reserve maybe and fracking for gas in the vicinity Of the whale nursery between Witsand and Hermanus killing the tourism industry in the Overberg completely?

    Reply
  12. Andre ZS1AZ

    Well, the Mayor should be able to find out the answer to some of these questions. As I said previously, follow the money trail and you will be surprised to where it leads you.
    Somebody must have seen it delivered. Find the name of the transport company and go
    from there.
    Whose digger was that? Ask the owner who gave the instruction to pull the pont out.
    If we keep on asking questions like that, we will find the answer.

    Reply
  13. Andre ZS1AZ

    I have been hearing things from people that I know and it just gets more disturbing. We go to the Malagas area very often and the people are willing to talk to us. I think that the mayor knows more than he is letting on. Information is pointing to the DA knowing exactly what was going to happen.

    Reply

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