Save the sanctuary

Susan Gie, chairperson,

Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) Western Cape Committee

The Wessa Western Cape Membership Committee has been informed by National CEO, Thommie Burger, that Number 31 The Sanctuary in Kirstenhof, is essentially up for sale.

While the decision was not taken lightly by the national board, they felt that the premises no longer served the needs of the professional staff based there.

Wessa is still very active in the Western Cape through the Ecotourism Division, representing the Blue Flag Tourism project, Green Key and Green Coast and these staff members will relocate to alternative office accommodation soon.

Unfortunately, there are currently not feasible projects for the schools and youth division and we are investigating how to resuscitate these programmes.

The Wessa marketing and communications manager resigned and a decision has been taken to position this division in Pietermaritzburg.

There was an understandably strong response from local members and neighbours to the appearance of a For Sale Notice at number 31, with the result that we have all gone back to the drawing board and the Western Cape Committee is now working closely with the CEO to find an alternative to selling The Sanctuary, which has become synonymous with Wessa in the Western Cape, certainly the greater Cape Town area.

One of the ideas being put forward to keep The Sanctuary within the Wessa fold is that our region takes over the management of the property and its buildings in its entirety, rates, maintenance, management and all.

As we are all volunteers, this would have to be carefully planned and various models tested to ensure that The Sanctuary can be run now and in the future in a sustainable manner, given the fluid nature of volunteerism, membership and funding.

We have been given some time to investigate alternative options for the use of this special environmental and community hub. We therefore invite and would welcome constructive suggestions about the future possibilities for The Sanctuary. Email solution-oriented ideas and comments to wessawestern
com, for the attention of the Western Cape Committee.

The Western Cape Committee will be meeting with the CEO before the end of March to discuss the ideas put forward to “Save The Sanctuary.”

At the meeting we will also consider ways in which communication between the membership and the project arm of Wessa can be improved. Inadequate communication to the Western Cape Committee and therefore to the members resulted in false rumours within the membership and surrounding Kirstenhof community as to what was going to happen to the properties and office.

We are taking this as a learning experience, on both sides and addressing ways to improve communication within our two-faceted organisation.