Plett Rage, set to be the first popular matric end-of-year party since the Covid-19 outbreak, has found itself in the midst of renewed furore.
Knysna Plett Herald reports organisers have been receiving significant backlash from members of the community over the “exclusionary” availability of free tickets, and the venue where the festival is set to take place from 2 to 9 December.
Environmental, safety concerns
The new venue, on a portion of land in the Roodefontein area on the outskirts of Plettenberg Bay, will be used by Rage and other events over the next year.
In the past, Plett Rage took place at venues such as Plett Central, Central Beach and Ganse Vallei.
There are environmental and safety concerns, with the venue situated in a marshland at the inflow of the Piesang River, which flows into the Roodefontein Dam – Plettenberg Bay’s main drinking water supply. This has resulted in fears of possible drinking water contamination.
The area is home to fish eagles and many other bird species known to nest in the area.
There are also concerns that the close proximity to the dam may result in drowning incidents.
Residents said the location of the venue will also result in economic losses, as it is 12km outside the centre of town. Local businesses may not be able to benefit from this year’s Rage event as a result, they told the publication.
Traffic issues owed to the venue’s steep dirt road makes it difficult to access as well, they said.
Noise pollution was cited as another concern.
But despite widespread objections, the application to use the venue was approved, albeit with restrictions.
These include only using the venue for one year, and reducing the original 2.6 hectare application to just over 1 hectare.
Appeal process allegedly snubbed
Yvonne Raath, one of the objectors, told Knysna Plett Herald the decision to appeal the use of the venue only ended on Friday – the same day the festival began.
Raath said that, according to municipal by-laws, organisers may not set up shop until the appeal process has completed. She claims this was “ignored” by organisers, with them barely giving the community any opportunities for their input during the tribunal ahead of the decision.
In addition, environmental reports and potential noise pollution notices were not provided to community members either.
Concerns were rebuffed by owner and founder of Plett Rage, Ronen Klugman, who said the festival brought in “about R55 million”.
He said the event site was 50m away from the dam, and that “thick forest” separated partygoers from the water. Security will reportedly control where people go as an added measure, he assured.
He committed to grading the road, making it a double-carriage with only access to the farm the event will be situated on.
On the issue of “exclusionary” free tickets, organisers were slammed for only offering free tickets to local matriculants from two schools in the area, Wittedrift High School and Greenwood Bay College.
In a statement, organisers said they hoped to include Murray High School and Plett Secondary School in future.
Residents accused organisers of excluding pupils from certain communities, to which they said several attempts had been made to contact the other two schools, but that they never responded.
However, staff from the two schools said organisers, through the Bitou municipality’s “youth desk”, only made contact a day prior to the statement being released.
The municipality failed to provide a response by the time of publication.
Years of drama
In 2020, hundreds of matriculants tested positive for Covid-19 while attending matric Rage in KwaZulu-Natal.
Organisers of Rage events, G&G Productions, came under fire for causing “super-spreader events” while the country was still reeling from soaring Covid-19 numbers.
This was made worse by revellers not following health protocols or wearing face masks, as was mandatory at the time.
In 2021, Rage organisers took a firm “no vax, no entry” policy, with guests and staff having had to undergo two rapid antigen tests onsite prior to entry on their first day of arrival and third day of attendance.
Edited and compiled by Nica Richards.