If you’ve ever lived in Cape Town, or even popped past for a visit, then chances are you’ve had a good chuckle at the unfinished highways in the Foreshore area commonly referred to as ‘Solly’s Folly’.
Named after Solly Morris, the City engineer in the 1970s at the time they were built and then scrapped midway, they serve as a reminder that sometimes even the best laid plans can go down in flames.
It seemed that Solly’s oversights were soon to be remedied, though, with the City unveiling six proposals to “reshape one of the most valuable, vital and iconic precincts” back in March.
That was according to Brett Herron, the Transport and Urban Development Mayoral Committee Member, but now the wheels have once again stalled.
A bid evaluation committee had to evaluate six proposals, but the committee has been scrapped in controversial circumstances. The reasons for the delays remain unclear after Melissa Whitehead, Commissioner for the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority, responded opaquely to questions on Thursday.
Whitehead said there was a deadlock over “scoring methodology”. She was being questioned by opposition councillors during a portfolio committee meeting on Thursday…
Development proposals had to address traffic congestion and the provision of affordable housing, as well as “leave us with a lasting legacy”, said Herron.
The developers behind the proposals were kept under wraps, and the bid evaluation committee was supposed to announce the winning bid by the end of July.
However, August and September came and went, and the bidders wondered what was happening. They received a letter from City Manager Achmat Ebrahim stating he had reconstituted the bid evaluation committee as he had “developed some discomfort” with the committee’s composition and process.
Whitehead was a member of the bid evaluation committee but was removed. So was the newly appointed director of urban catalytic investments, Frank Cummings, who was controversially fired on 11 October at the end of his initial six-month probation period.
That would be the PC version, because recent inside sources say that Whitehead was making a mockery of the process:
…two sources “with intimate knowledge of the committee’s work” said the bid committee was scrapped because Whitehead “clearly favoured a particular” bid. It claims she used threats and coercion to get bid committee members to support her choice.
When peppered with questions during the portfolio committee meeting, Whitehead said that “supply chain management procedures bound her to confidentiality”.
A new committee has been formed to re-evaluate the bids, which Whitehead claimed is on track to announce the winning proposal by the end of this month.
We’ll just have to wait and see how that one pans out, but for Solly’s sake, and for those of us who are tired of explaining why a highway ends in mid-air in the middle of the CBD, let’s hope she is right.
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