WDC2014: Design reDeferred

When Global Greed Crept Into our Taxes

September 1986: Pro-Apartheid facilitator Alayne Reesberg, now truly transformed placed in charge of 'Design for transformation'. Three decades ago, she was parading paid hands aimed at defeating economic embargo against atrocities of the old system...

In Brief

  • Governed by the Democratic Party, the City of Cape Town launched the Cape Town Design whose mandate was to transform the city. Alayane Reesberg was appointed as CEO
  • A former spokesperson for the Apartheid government at the UN, Reesberg’s appointment raises eyebrows and puts the spotlight on her qualifications to run the R40m design project funded with tax payers’
  • We reveal how the R40m was spent in Reesberg’s jet-setting lifestyle and employment of ‘well-connected’ consultants to provide bogus services

Lack of transparency and accountability has been quietly trending within the City of Cape Town. Appropriately we use the wheeling and dealing surrounding the WDC2014, to launch the series uSpiked Global Greed (uGG). For nine months we have been piecing together the various multiple standards exhibited by corporations and local municipalities that would surely twist the greying hair of the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Pravin Gordhan. Councillors, Mayors and Municipal Managers are accountable only to themselves and never to their ratepayers… from grabbed graveyards, public properties and heritage buildings, to illegal evictions, the budgets are running out of control...Design Re-Deferred

Hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars were spent in a bid to secure the yet-to-be-beneficial title of World Design Capital 2014 for Cape Town. No economists (at least the ones we have talked to) can authoritatively quantify or qualify all the expenditure that went into the bid process – airtime, branding, air-miles, human-hours, waived advertisement revenue offered by various media houses… when the dust had settled, Cape Town was crowned the winning city. And that is when the real looting started.

Hence the big question: what has the title done for the city’s ratepayers and the country or the continent? Could be a lot, depending on who is talking – a few conferences, thousands of air-miles for the main players, and a few jobs for pals, hundreds of WDC2014 logos dotting business establishments, the new City of Cape Town logo…

We cannot examine the sham and the scam that the title has turned out to be without reflecting on two observations:

  • “Apartheid may have ended 20 years ago, but here in Cape Town the sense of apartness remains as strong as ever. After decades of enforced segregation, the feeling of division is permanently carved into the city's urban form, the physical legacy of a plan that was calculatedly designed to separate poor blacks from rich whites.” April 2014 observation by UK Guardian journalist, Oliver Wainwright.
  • Life is like that“In this province, where the DA governs, R30 billion was spent on consultants, no doubt white cronies of the DA government. In this province, we have scam after scam that is readily covered up with the complicity of the media. Millions are spent by the City of Cape Town on a scam called the Design Capital. These millions could have been spent on shelter and proper sanitation.” June 2014 statement by Lindiwe Sisulu, Human Settlement Minister

Things remain the sameWainwright’s in-depth report was met with deafening silence - after all, he had been to Cape Town to report on the ‘homecoming’ of the WDC2014 title - but Sisulu’s parliamentary statement was greeted with screams of “show us the evidence…” “…the award was above board…”.  What the public wasn’t told about though was the number of calls that were made within hours of her statement; calls which resulted in an emergency meeting of some well-heeled key players to mitigate any possible fall-out.

If, and we stress IF, some payments were made to secure the title for Cape Town, we may never know for certain as that would border on bribery or corruption… and as we know, hardly do the recipients and givers of bribes openly admit to their ways. So we would leave that for another day. What we however do know and can prove makes possible bribery the least of our concerns. 

Since the title was awarded to the city, the project has turned into a bottomless drain for ratepayers’ funds. The city’s initial R40 million-plus already advanced has surely been squandered with no major transformative designs to show for it, unless the group would like to claim ownership for the new city logo. The Design Indaba, Cape Argus Pick ‘n’ Pay Cycle Tour, BRT Lanes, MyCiti Bus, Cape Town Stadium all of which had been in existence before the 2014.

With Wainwright’s observation in mind, our investigations spanning nine months clearly show how the title was quickly turned into a cash cow for those yesteryears operators who have attempted to ensure that the masses remained segregated. It wasn’t and still isn’t an issue of ‘separate, but equal’; it was and is “Us versus Them” – the Haves versus the Have-Nots. 

The bid for the title was driven and championed by Cape Town Partnership, a non-profit organisation founded in 1999 by the City of Cape Town, the South African Property Owners Association and the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Its main goal at the time (we believe it has not changed): “to bring people together around common goals for Cape Town’s transformation.” Transformation has become the elephant in the room in our first installment of the uGG Series.

Mayor Patricia de LilleWhen accepting the WDC2014 Award in July 2013, Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille reportedly said: “It is an honour for me to be addressing you here today as mayor of the first African city to be named a World Design Capital. A city belongs to its people and it must be designed for – and with – them and their communities. For many years, people have been applying innovative solutions to our challenges. They have been using design to transform various aspects of life. But they have often been working without an overarching social goal in mind...”

The basic dictionary definition of ‘transformation’ is “…marked change in form, nature, or appearance”.  As Wainwright noted in his report, the lives of those shack dwellers have remained the same if not actually worsened. Makeshift shelters with concrete toilets are not the transformation the Mayor talked of in Taipei.

But not all have lost out. The friends of friends of the other friends of those who matter have been well rewarded.

“Show me your friends…

What wasn’t highlighted at the time of the Taipei speech was the earlier appointment of Alayne Reesberg by the City to be the sole driver and co-driver of the Greedy Bus. The City that ‘works for you’ seemed to have clairvoyant powers as well… they already knew the title was in the bag. A Chief Executive Officer for a non-profit company, Cape Town Design, had already been appointed.

Nobody at the time paused to ask why her? Or why not? What is her design background?  Nada!

With the appointment, the City of Cape Town appears to have engaged on a process or a scheme [as that is what it now appears to have been] to sideline those well-intentioned individuals within Cape Town Partnership who had spent millions of work-hours to oversee the success of the bid.

"She was part of the South African diplomatic team that negotiated the withdrawal of the Cuban troops from Angola, leading to Namibian independence."

CEO A ReesbergIn the statement announcing Reesberg’s appointment, Councillor Grant Pascoe, the then Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, was quoted as claiming: “We are getting closer to, under the banner of World Design Capital for 2014, implementing the changes we want to see in our city…”

Why blow your own trumpet when someone else could easily do it for you? Without going into details [we know how diplomatic issues are handled: in great secrecy unless they are some intentional leaks that would keep the print going for months], the statement continued: “Apart from private sector, Reesberg has also spent time in international diplomacy. She was part of the South African diplomatic team that negotiated the withdrawal of the Cuban troops from Angola, leading to Namibian independence.”

So was the best candidate picked? We raised the question with the former Councillor Pascoe. Surprised to find us calling his number on matters pertaining to the City he had left awhile back, this former Democratic Alliance Councillor confessed to have simply taken on trust that everything was above board. He immediately owned up to not having been involved in the vetting of the candidates: “The process was put together by the Mayor, the City Manager and the Board of the Cape Town Design. … They presented us with the details including the CV of the successful candidate and we announced it.”

“The process was put together by the Mayor, the City Manager and the Board of the Cape Town Design. … They presented us with the details including the CV of the successful candidate and we announced it.”

Pascoe told us that since the project fell under his portfolio, it was his responsibility to initiate the press release. Did he bother to check the alleged positive role Reesberg had played in the negotiated withdrawal of SADF troops from Angola that supposedly led to Namibian independence? “No, the interviewing panel should have checked that. We just picked what was in her CV for the statement.”

Of course CVs do not lie, do they? Especially when written by the beneficiaries or those close to them. We sought to establish what could have been left out.

Total OnslaughtIn our quest to get to know and understand this top troops-withdrawal negotiator who helped secure Namibian independence, we came across Total Onslaught: Apartheid’s Dirty Tricks Exposed, a book by investigative journalist De Wet Potgieter.

In the chapter Honey Trap, Potgieter writes about ‘South Africa’s sex diplomat’ Lidia van Heerden. He mentions Reesberg and her colleagues at the United Nation’s New York offices: “She (Van Heerden) took comfort from the fact that colleagues like Alayne Reesberg and Chris Kampen found the UN and its documentation equally confusing. Their work was relatively superficial, and they weren’t expected to carry out in-depth research. They spent most of their time listening to the gossip in the corridors and running to the ambassador to share it.’”

Could there have been enough gossip to elevate her to a top withdrawal negotiator? What secrets did she have on the selecting panellists that made them look the other way?

Potgieter seemed to have just scratched the surface, but that was enough motivation for our team to go excavating for more. Our first and main stop was the UN Headquarters in New York.

As the spokesperson for the apartheid government at the United Nations, Reesberg was recorded as denying any presence of SADF troops in Angola in the mid-1980s – the time when some of them were actually being clobbered by the combined force of the Cuban military, the Angolan army, and the military units of the liberation movements of South Africa and Namibia. That ended in the spring of 1988, leading directly to the independence of Namibia. It was nothing to do with some statement placed in someone’s curriculum vitae.

[There was a UN Security Council Resolution 574 of 1985 that forbade SADF troops being in Angola, so any admission would have been a contravention].

Ok, she could have just been doing her job… relaying what the Home Office had mandated her to say.

In September 1986, Reesberg was on a mission to defeat the planned UN Resolution that would implement economic sanctions against the oppressive apartheid regime.

Our excavation took us to three years earlier, before the defeat of the SADF troops. At the time, Reesberg was busy organising a coup at the UN. This wasn’t the type of coup like the one recently attempted in Lesotho. In September 1986, Reesberg was on a mission to defeat the planned UN Resolution that would implement economic sanctions against the oppressive apartheid regime.

Facilitator A ReesbergIn her attempts to convince the world, with the likely backing of her bosses back in Pretoria of course, Reesberg presented to the UN Press Corps a Rev. Sipho Bhengu, described as a black Methodist Minister from Soweto, who addressed the journalists on his opposition to the then-proposed vote on economic sanctions to be taken by the UN Security Council.

Accessing these records was the easiest assignment our team has ever got involved in. Simple FaceTime calls to some New York based journalists we know and the records were in our mailboxes. So why didn’t the mayor’s men and women check these out? The ratepayers were not expected to know anything other than what they were being fed about Alayne Reesberg.

…and I’ll show you your future.”

With the CEO in place, the City advanced over R40 million to kick-start the then-soon-to-be-awarded title of World Design Capital. Designers of all kinds and shapes soon started trooping into the Mother City, eager to be part of the new big thing, but Reesberg had some ideas of her own on what kind of ‘transformative design’ had to be implemented. Travelling first class to every city she felt worth emulating, wining and dining at some of the most exclusive restaurants in the world, she took up the grand old lifestyle again with a vengeance.

The White SangomaBut she needed friends in the right places and among the first to join her ranks was Yvette de Villiers, the sole owner and director of Lightwise cc (2005/112340/23) and Yvette De Villiers cc (1997/007646/23). This soon-to-be 43-year-old lady has turned out to be a friend of note to Reesberg. A friend who could provide her with details of her future plus what her staff would be thing or saying about her.

In her local website lightwise, De Villiers describes herself as a holder of PhD in Metaphysical Philosophy. [Hence she uses the title Dr. De Villiers] Not unlike the troop-withdrawal negotiator, she claims to have been “born with the gift of healing hands and has spent most of her life developing the ability to read and balance the energy systems that govern life-force energy in humans and animals.”

What makes her so very useful in Reesberg’s role is embedded in the second paragraph: “Her main interest is the development of new ways to bring about individual transformation and she has done extensive research in this new and exciting field.” Transformation… that elephant again.

She is a clairvoyant or psychic, others would call her the White Sangoma, if she could and has an academic PhD to back it up.  For a reported monthly retainer of R8,000 drained from the ratepayers’ money, she makes herself available to channel her powers to all Reesberg’s staff at the WDC2014. There is an additional consultation fee whenever a staff member makes an individual visit and it’s all billed to our rates and taxes.

Your futureWhile the staff attached to Reesberg may believe they are consulting a real doctor and hence expect some levels of confidentiality, in fact all soul-searching communications poured out to the good doctor are passed on to the CEO who relies on her clairvoyant’s reports to make important decisions affecting transformative design and her staff. Mind control, some would call it. Reportedly tacked up somewhere in her office is a list of her employees with corresponding Zodiac signs.

If one believes in healing powers, who are we to object? What we can question though is de Villiers’ claimed PhD… bought online, not earned through extensive research as claimed on her website.

The doctorate and ministerial degree certificates proudly displayed thereon were issued by the American College of Metaphysic Theology, an online degrees-manufacturing company run by an individual who has names that vary like the seasons. In 2001, he was Dr. Jay Wise; in 2005, he was Dr. James Allen… The only thing the chosen names have in common, other than originating from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is that they all resemble real practicing medical doctors.

How long did it take Dr. Yvette de Villiers to attain her doctorate? The answer could be found at an online forum by one Russell who wrote in 2001:

“I received a catalog today from ACMT americancollege.com. Several interesting points:

  1. Dr. Jay Wise is listed as the chancellor. Dr. Wise is also president of Northwestern International University, Ltd.,
  2. The Ph.D. can be obtained for $199, and course work can be completed within sixty days.
  3. Ministerial credentials are provided at no extra charge when one completes a degree program.
  4. Excerpt from catalog: "On the day that you enroll in a degree program, you may legitimately add an important line to your resume, such as 'Ph.D. ACMT (Degree expected Summer 2001).'”

How much of the millions advanced to Reesberg’s WDC2014 has been channelled to the spiritual world via this psychic? We may never know exactly until the next round of financial audits by the Auditor-General. Only by then, Reesberg and Company will have moved on to the next ‘greedy train’, this time including their successful rip-off of the City’s ratepayers in their biographies.

And that is the first scratch of the uSpiked Global Greed Series… NEXT: where the real money went, plus the experiences of former and current WDC2014 with the R8,000 White Sangoma. Reesberg it appears, only talks to friendly journalists and we appear hostile... She has been too busy to have an audience with us in the previous nine months...


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