Special Council Meeting outcome

The outcome of today’s Special Council Meeting was a provisional win for Ratepayers and for the town.

Recall from our last two posts that Municipal Manager Chetty and Mayor Bouw-Spies wanted Council to approve and adopt in principle the proposed draft Microstructure that provided for at least 88 new jobs at an additional cost of R25 million, whilst the administrative officials providing support for our top politicians were scheduled to increase from 2 to 7, and staff in the municipal manager’s office were going to increase from 23 to 37, thereby costing ratepayers another R3.8 million per annum.

Your Ratepayers Committee sent a letter to all councillors late last night objecting to the proposal in the strongest possible terms. The ANC councillors read the letter and, realising that these additional costs were sheer lunacy, objected vociferously at the meeting. (Well done, ANC!). They were joined by a few DA Councillors who also saw the folly of the proposal, with the result that the plan to approve and adopt the proposed Microstructure foundered, and the final resolution merely stated that the organisational structure would be “referred for consultation.”

The discussion around the item made it clear that the term “organisational structure” was being used to include both the Microstructure, and the Macrostructure that was hastily adopted several weeks ago behind closed doors, after Ratepayers had been locked out of the building. So, nothing was approved, and both the Microstructure and the Macrostructure are now set to go through the consultation process.

After the meeting, your KRA chairman met with the Speaker to ensure that Ratepayers would have an opportunity to participate in the consultation process as early as possible, to avoid being faced with a fait accompli at a later date. So now, we have a genuine opportunity to help shape the proposal to match the town’s actual needs, and strive to prevent increases in headcount or related costs. It’s going to be a hard fight, but we will push for no increase in headcount, but instead, a reduction to more affordable levels.

You will find below a copy of the letter we sent the councillors:

KNYSNA RATEPAYERS’ ASSOCIATION
PO Box 2475, Knysna, 6570
Text and Whatsapp: 083 394 0291

Dear Councillors,

The Knysna Ratepayers Association wishes to register its categorical rejection of the proposed new “Micro Structure” for Knysna Municipality, which is scheduled for approval “in principle” at the Special Council Meeting on Wednesday, 25 April 2018.

Our objections are both substantive and procedural. Since our procedural objection is that the proposed adoption will violate the law, we will begin with procedure.

Both the MFMA and the Systems Act provide that the kind of radical restructuring envisaged by the proposed Micro Structure undergo a mandatory public participation process.

Knysna municipality is currently engaged in a ward-by-ward public participation process on the draft budget and IDP review. However, neither the draft budget nor the IDP reflect the proposed Micro Structure, even though that structure is to be implemented in this budget year.

Public participation is accordingly focused on a fictitious budget, and as there has been no separate public participation process for the proposed Micro Structure, the adoption of the Micro Structure will violate the public participation requirements of both the Systems Act and the MFMA.

In addition, the proposed Micro Structure entails far-reaching changes affecting existing employees. Some positions are to be eliminated, whilst others are to be devalued. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act lay down strict requirements for such changes, none of which, to our knowledge, have been complied with. Adoption of the Micro Structure will almost certainly result in the violation of one or both acts.

These violations of applicable law are reason enough to scuttle the proposal.

Turning now to the substance of the proposed Micro Structure: it is proposed that permanent staff be increased by 88 posts, at an estimated additional cost of R25 million per annum.

In a town that is already suffering from a collapsing infrastructure, this is sheer lunacy. How many decaying pipes could be replaced for R25 million? How many kilometres of potholed roads could be resurfaced?

And the figure of R25 million seems far too low in any event. The proposed staff increase of 88 posts was obtained by subtracting the current total of funded and unfunded posts (approximately 970) from the proposed new total of 1058 posts. This is comparing apples and oranges, however. Surely, the plan is not to deliberately create unfunded posts. To determine the total additional cost, the current number of funded posts should be subtracted from the new proposed total of 1058. There are approximately 755 funded posts at this time. As a result, the actual increase will be 303 posts, not 88. And the cost of an additional 303 employees will be far, far more than R25 million. Even assuming that an increase of 88 posts would cost only R25 million, an increase of 303 posts would cost approximately 86 million. Where is Knysna going to find an additional R86 million per annum to spend on salaries?

In addition, with the creation of the “Office of Political Office Bearers,” the proposed Micro Structure envisages an unprecedented increase in administrative support officials for our top politicians, from the current two, to seven. Our politicians have gotten along nicely with at first one, and then two, administrative support officials for the past eleven years. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support the proposition that they need an additional five, three of whom will work exclusively for the Mayor.

Our politicians need to start delivering the capital infrastructure projects this town so badly needs, and must not even consider spending our hard-earned tax rand on salaries for new posts whose occupants will spend their time on “Special Projects” and “Communication and Stakeholder Engagement.” Knysna’s problems will not be solved by public relations. Accession to power often begets self-indulgence, but cash-strapped ratepayers are incensed when their hard-earned tax rand are squandered on non-essentials, whilst service delivery continues to be conspicuous by its absence.

Finally, the proposed Micro Structure will increase staff in the Municipal Manager’s Office from 23 to 37, for a net increase of 14, at an additional cost of R3,8 million per annum. Additional supernumeraries are the last thing our already bloated staff needs at this point. Instead, Knysna needs a competent skills assessment process to cut away fat and match skills to requirements, followed by a reduction in the overall headcount to bring municipal rates down to levels that can be tolerated by our large population of pensioners on fixed incomes who are increasingly unable to make ends meet every month.

For all these reasons, we categorically reject the proposed Micro Structure, and ask that it be removed from tomorrow’s agenda.

Regards,

The Committee

Mayor and MM, Knysna can’t afford you!

MADAM MAYOR AND MR. CHETTY
KNYSNA CAN NO LONGER AFFORD YOU!

FOURTEEN NEW POSTS FOR MR CHETTY
FIVE NEW POSTS FOR MAYOR AND POLITICIANS

When the current Mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies was the ANC Mayor from 2007 until 2011, Christopher Bezuidenhoudt was the Mayor’s PA and the only official providing administrative support to political office bearers.

When Bouw-Spies became the new DA Mayor in 2016, there were 2 officials providing administrative support to all councillors, including the Mayor.

The new Micro Structure scheduled for adoption in principle at the Special Council meeting on Wednesday, 25 April proposes a brand new division, “The Office of Political Office Bearers” with no fewer than 5 new posts, for a grand total of 7 officials working for our politicians.

Whilst Eleanore Bouw-Spies and all the politicians managed to get by with one PA during her term as ANC Mayor, now that Bouw-Spies is leading this town as DA Mayor, Knysna Ratepayers will be expected to pay for 7 officials to support our politicians. And 3 of those officials are exclusively for Bouw-Spies’ office.

As for Mr. Chetty: our municipal manager proposes to increase the staff positions in his office from 23 to 37, thereby costing ratepayers an additional R3,8 Million per annum.

KNYSNA SIMPLY CANNOT AFFORD THIS!

Knysna Council set to double debt

KNYSNA COUNCIL SET TO DOUBLE DEBT

PROPOSED INCREASED STAFF ESTABLISHMENT TO COST RATEPAYERS R25 MILLION MORE

The Draft Municipal Budget proposes a massive increase in borrowings, from the current R35 Million to R66 Million in the 2018/2019 financial year. The significant increase in debt raises concerns that our children may be burdened with a legacy of unsustainable debt levels.

The organisational structure is currently being reviewed and the Council will be requested to approve the proposed new Micro Structure at a Special Council Meeting on 25 April 2018.

Council has already approved the new Macro Structure in which the Planning and Development Directorate has been abolished, following a recommendation from Mr. Chetty, who advised the Council that the new Macro Structure would be less expensive.

The Agenda for the meeting of 25 April includes a costing comparison between the current and proposed staff component. The savings promised by Mr. Chetty have come to naught and the proposed new staff establishment, in which the Planning Directorate has been disbanded, will cost ratepayers an additional R25 Million per annum!

Whereas the intention is to implement the new organisational structure in the 2018/2019 financial year, the additional R25 Million has not been budgeted for.

The question is how the municipality will finance the new bloated staff contingent.

Will we incur more debt or will service delivery be affected and capital expenditure be curtailed to pay for the proposed 88 new staff members?

The Agenda for the Special Council Meeting can be accessed via the following link: http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/u…/2014/10/Spec-Age-25-Apr-18.pdf

KRA disappointed with MM’s remarks

RATEPAYERS DISAPPOINTED WITH MM’S REMARKS AT WARD 9 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION MEETING ON DRAFT BUDGET AND IDP

Ratepayers were very disappointed with Knysna Municipal Manager Chetty’s remarks at Thursday’s Ward 9 public participation meeting on the draft budget and IDP. The core topic was the budget, and the property taxes and rates residents could expect to pay in the coming year.

Mr Kamalasen Chetty, however, veered off topic into an irrelevant explanation of the reasons for the comprehensive restructuring of the municipality, lecturing residents like schoolchildren on the ins and outs of an ill-conceived process that appears to have been hastily undertaken for reasons best known to him.

What he failed to mention was that, although the massive restructuring project necessarily impacts the budget, the budget presented to ratepayers town-wide does not take the restructuring into account, even though the restructuring is supposed to be implemented starting very early in this coming budget year!

So ratepayers are essentially being asked to consider and comment on an outdated, inaccurate draft budget. Now, what is the point of that, other than to enable the municipality to tick off its “public participation” boxes?

The entire public participation process on the budget is seriously flawed, and may fail to satisfy applicable law and regulation for that reason alone. (There are other reasons as well, which we will cover in a future post.)

When a member of the audience pointed out the irrelevance of Chetty’s remarks (thank you Sir, whoever you may be), the audience rebelled, and Chetty was hooted down and had to take his seat.

DA’s panel makes a poor decision

DA PANEL’S DECISION TO EXCLUDE THE PRESS AND THE PUBLIC FROM COUNCILLOR MYERS’ DISCIPLINARY HEARING IS A SERIOUS MISTAKE

The DA panel on Friday rejected our request to attend the disciplinary hearing of Ward 10 Councillor Peter Myers. Its ruling closes the proceedings not only to ratepayers, but to the press and all other members of the public as well. Those proceedings are now being held in secret.

The panel ruled that any public interest in the matter had to be weighed against the party’s requirement of confidentiality, as envisioned in the DA’s constitution, policies and rules and concluded that, as the hearing was an internal disciplinary process as opposed to an exercise of public power, the proceedings could not be deemed to be in the public interest.

The KRA’s request for an open hearing was therefore denied.

The panel’s strained, formalistic characterization of these proceedings as a purely internal party matter simply disregards the facts. This is a matter of enormous public interest in Knysna, which directly affects all residents in Councillor Myers’ ward, as well as ratepayers generally, since Myers is virtually certain to be removed from the DA if convicted, with the result that he will automatically lose his seat as a councillor. Given the highly public nature of the potential consequences, the public has a clear and controlling interest in witnessing these proceedings.

The panel, however, claims that this interest is outweighed by several other considerations:

1. Potential reputational damage to the party

2. Disclosure of internal party procedures to political opponents and critics

3. Unwillingness of fellow councillors to speak openly and frankly

1. If the party has acted honestly in charging Myers and if the proceedings are conducted fairly, then there is no risk of reputational damage to the party from holding public proceedings. Indeed, it is likely that by insisting that the proceedings be held in secret, the panel is doing far more damage to the party’s reputation than it could possibly suffer if the proceedings were open. People are quite likely to conclude that the party has something to hide. And what about the reputational damage that Myers himself has already suffered? An open hearing would afford the public an opportunity to make up their own minds about Myers’ reputation—an opportunity that he has now been denied.

2. Surely, most of the relevant internal party procedures are outlined in documents that have long been public knowledge. And in any event, it is not so much the disclosure of those procedures that could harm the party, rather, it is party members’ failure to abide by those procedures. Here again, people are likely to wonder why the party is working so diligently to keep the proceedings under wraps.

3. Doesn’t the public have a right to expect DA councillors to speak the truth in public, as well as in private? Unless they have reason to be ashamed of their testimony, why would councillors testify differently in public than in private?

The panel’s decision to hold the Myers disciplinary hearing in secret raises more questions than it answers. The KRA is extremely disappointed that the DA panel has ruled against the principles of openness and transparency that the DA so proudly espouses, and instead chosen to keep the press and public in the dark.

Cllr Myers hearing starts today

Peter Myers DA disciplinary hearing started today. Both sides presented their arguments on why the proceedings should be open or closed. The KRA argued that the proceedings should be open. Their brief today may be found below. Footnotes have been omitted in the interest of brevity. The panel is scheduled to rule on this point first thing tomorrow.

Oral argument before the DA Panel in Councillor Peter Myers’ disciplinary hearing, presented today, Thursday, April 12th, on behalf of the KRA

My name is Christopher Gould, and I’m here today as chairman of the Knysna Ratepayers Association to request that you exercise your discretion to rule that the disciplinary hearing of Councillor Peter Myers be open to the public. I should point out that my request has the backing of our entire 10-person committee, with no dissenters.

The Rules of Disciplinary Hearings in terms of Chapter 11 of the Federal Constitution do not address the issue whether hearings of this type should be open or closed to the public. However, the possibility that such hearings can be open was clearly recognized by Mr. James Selfe, the chairman of the DA’s Federal Executive, when, with regard to another DA disciplinary hearing—that of suspended Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, he recently said that the DA, and I quote: “doesn’t have a particular problem“ with the proceedings being open. Selfe said: “We accept that there are arguments both in favour of a closed session and an open session in view of the public interest in the case. In the end, that decision will have to be taken by the panel. It’s not a decision that the party [takes].”

Why, then, should the proceedings in the case against Councillor Peter J. Myers be open?

Firstly, for the very reason cited by James Selfe in his comment above: public interest in the case. On January 31st, we posted our written submission to this panel in favor of a public hearing on our Knysna Ratepayers Facebook page. Since then, it has garnered 2,252 views. In Knysna, that is a very impressive score. In fact, it is the second largest number of views we have had for any post on our Facebook page so far this year—even more than our posts regarding Councillors’ decision to pay themselves the maximum allowable remuneration == and is surpassed only by our post on the ongoing pollution of the Knysna estuary. The DA’s dissatisfaction with Councillor Myers and the steps taken against him have also been extensively reported in the local press, notably on October 12th, 20th and 25th 2017, and February 1st, 2018 . If it is open to the public, we expect that this proceeding itself will also be broadly covered in the print and social media. In short, there is and will continue to be considerable public interest in this case.

Secondly, because of the potential impact of this proceeding on a relationship that is far more important than the one between Peter Myers, and the Democratic Alliance. Whilst closed proceedings may be appropriate in matters that exclusively involve a relationship between a group and one of its members—say, a member of a bridge club caught marking the cards– this is not such a matter. Peter Myers is first and foremost an elected public representative, accountable to his constituency, and only then, a party member. This proceeding has the potential to result in Myers’ removal as an elected representative. That outcome would destroy the relationship between Myers’ and those who voted him in on a reform ticket.

In a perfect world, those constituents in fact would be the ones to decide whether they want to terminate their relationship with him, their representative. That being impossible within the context of this proceeding, I submit that they should at least have an opportunity to observe the proceedings, and if they cannot attend personally, to read about them in the press.

In other words, I submit that this Panel would be wrong to take a narrow, formalistic view of this hearing as a purely internal, party matter, when its potential outcome is so much broader than that. Myers was elected as a reformer. If this reformer is to be stripped of his mandate, those who elected him to work toward reforming the Knysna administration, to finally set us on the path to clean governance and effective service delivery in this town, are at least entitled to an opportunity to witness those proceedings.

Thirdly, because, like most constitutions, our Constitution looks with disfavor on judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings that are conducted in secret. It is no accident that our Bill of Rights guarantees every accused person “the right to a fair trial, which includes the right-… (c) to a public trial…”. The right to a public trial is a core component of due process, enshrined in constitutions the world over. A public trial is perhaps the most fundamental safeguard against judicial injustice. Admittedly, Councillor Myers is not faced with a potential deprivation of liberty or a fine, as he would be if he were being tried for a criminal offence in a court of law, where he would automatically have the benefit of the due process guaranteed by the Constitution. However, he does face the possibility of substantial reputational damage, and the loss of a vested right which was not acquired from the DA, but rather from the people he represents—the right to represent them up to the conclusion of his term of office. For that reason, I submit that the due process safeguard of a public hearing should be applied to this proceeding as well.

And then there is freedom of the press, guaranteed by section 16(a) of the Bill of Rights.
When trials of political figures are held in secret, the press cannot do its job of witnessing the administration of justice, and reporting on the proceedings to the public. For the press plays a vital role as the conduit through which the public receives information regarding the operation of public institutions. If Councillor Myers’ hearing is closed, the press will have to rely on hearsay for its reports on the proceedings, and for its assessment of whether justice has been done. Should the press be denied access to a case that has aroused such public interest?

Finally, there are the principles of natural justice. International conventions codifying those rules stress the importance of a public hearing. Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human rights provides: “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing.” Similarly, article 14 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: “The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires.” None of those exceptions apply here. And Councillor Myers himself has asked that these proceedings be public.

To sum up: Mr James Selfe, the chairman of the DA’s Federal Executive, has recognized that a panel constituted like this one has discretion to rule that a disciplinary hearing be open to the public, and recently said that he “doesn’t have a particular problem” with such a ruling. Mr Selfe identified public interest as an important factor in making such a determination, and as we have shown, there is considerable public interest in Knysna in these proceedings. Secondly, the DA is not a bridge club, and it would be wrong for this Panel to take a narrow, formalistic view of this hearing as a purely internal, party matter, when its potential impact is so much greater. The key relationship at issue here is not the narrow relationship between Councillor Myers and his party, rather, it is the relationship between Myers and the people who elected him. And although they cannot determine the outcome, they should at least be given an opportunity to witness the proceedings. Finally, the constitutional principles of procedural due process and freedom of the press, and the rules of natural justice, both stress the importance of a public trial or hearing.

For all of these reasons, I respectfully request that this Panel rule that the remainder of these proceedings shall be open to the public.

Respectfully submitted,

Christopher Gould
Chairman, Knysna Ratepayers Association

Excluding the public is wrong!

Councillor Peter Myers’ DA-disciplinary hearing is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Thursday, 12 April 2018, at 9 am in Council Chambers, Clyde Street. We believe that excluding the public and the press from the hearing would be fundamentally wrong, contrary to the requirements of due process in a democracy, and a clear violation of the principles of natural justice. Accordingly, we are reprinting below our submission to the Panel last January, setting out our arguments. Note that, following arguments by Councillor Myers’ attorney, the Ratepayers will also be making an oral presentation tomorrow in support of the proposition that these proceedings must be open to the public. We assume that unless and until the Panel rules in Myers’ and our favour on this issue, the proceedings will be closed.

Our Ref: 23 January 2018
PMJ Open Hearing – 1
Mr Nicholas Gotsell
Manager: Federal Legal Commission & Compliance
P.O. Box 1475
Cape Town
8000
By email: nicholasg@da.org.za
RE: DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE / CLLR PETER MYERS
Dear Mr Gotsell,

Councillor Peter Myers has been charged by the Democratic Alliance (“DA”) with various instances of misconduct. His disciplinary hearing is scheduled for 5-6 February. We would like to attend the hearing, however, we have been informed that whereas Councillor Meyers has no objection, the Panel have made a preliminary ruling that insufficient grounds have been provided why an open hearing should be held.

We believe that excluding the public from the hearing would be fundamentally wrong, contrary to the requirements of due process in a democracy, and a clear violation of the principles of natural justice.

Myers is much more than a party member. He was democratically elected by the citizens of Ward 10 to represent them on the Knysna Council. If the individuals who have laid charges against Myers have their way and the Panel of Judges votes against him, he will almost certainly be ejected from the DA. If he is ejected from the DA, he will lose his seat as a councillor.
So the potential outcome of this proceeding is much more than an internal, party matter. Instead, it will constitute a reversal of the will of the people who cast their votes for Myers in an open, democratic election. How can a proceeding that thwarts the democratically expressed will of the people, be held in secret? How can the citizens who voted for Myers be denied the right to witness his trial, and make up their own minds about the fairness of the proceedings and the outcome, whatever that may be?

It is no accident that the Bill of Rights in our country guarantees every accused person “the right to a fair trial, which includes the right-… (c) to a public trial…”. The right to a public trial is a core component of due process, enshrined in constitutions the world over. Secret trials are the hallmark of despotic regimes, not open democracies. Surely the DA does not want that sort of regime for South Africa, and would not want to set such an example with this disciplinary hearing?

A public trial is perhaps the most fundamental safeguard against judicial injustice, as was recognised by Enlightenment philosopher Jeremy Bentham, when he said: “In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice.”

But there are other compelling considerations as well. It is no accident that s16(a) of the Bill of Rights guarantees “freedom of the press, and other media”. Without freedom of the press, no democracy can survive.

Where trials of political figures are held in secret, the press cannot do its job of witnessing the administration of justice, and reporting on the proceedings to the public. For the press plays a vital role as the conduit through which the public receives information regarding the operation of public institutions. If Councillor Myers’ hearing is closed, the press will have to rely on hearsay for its reports on the proceedings, and for its assessment of whether justice has been done.

Although there are exceptions to the principle that trials must be public, they are limited in number, and narrowly construed. The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights represents a widely-accepted codification of the principles of natural justice in these matters. Article 14 of the ICCPR provides:

“The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice; but any judgement … shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.”

None of these exceptions apply here. Councillor Myers is not invoking his own right to privacy to keep the hearing secret—he supports a public hearing. There are no juveniles or children involved, and there is no matrimonial dispute. To our knowledge, no one is claiming that there are special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

For all of these reasons, the Knysna Ratepayers Association believes that if justice is to be seen to be done in this case, Councillor Peter Myers’ disciplinary hearing must be open to the public. Accordingly, we request that the Panel amend its initial determination, and rule that the entire disciplinary proceeding shall be open to the public, and the press. We hereby request an opportunity to make oral representations to the Panel in this regard, and ask that this submission be placed before the Panel as a matter of urgency.

The Committee

Water usage survey for businesses

An Economic Impact Survey of the water crisis has been commissioned by the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism. As part of managing and responding to the current water crisis in the Western Cape in a way that minimizes the impacts to its economy, a better understanding of the business response to the crisis, as well as current and potential future impacts of the crisis is needed. Businesses and business associations are, therefore, encouraged to complete the survey. Although not all fields in the survey are compulsory, the more information provided will enable the provision of the most appropriate forms of support. Please distribute the survey to as many businesses and business associations that operate in the Western Cape as possible.
Please click on THIS LINK for the survey.

Survey Details:
The survey should take 20 minutes to complete.
Please submit responses by 20 April 2018.
The Survey can be completed in any order and allows respondents to page backwards and forwards.
Details can be captured in one session with an opportunity to Edit Responses after submission and via the Google Form Economic Impact Survey e-mail receipt in the respondents inbox.
For any queries, please e-mail water@green-cape.co.za