At the Special Council Meeting on Wednesday, 30 May, we learned that Speaker Georlene Wolmarans, a DA councillor, had arbitrarily refused to include an ANC motion of no confidence in Mayor Eleanor Bouw-Spies on the agenda. During the uproar that followed her refusal, respected ANC ward councillor Victor Molosi stated that she had bowed to political pressure from one Rowan Spies. Rowan Spies is the DA Constituency Chair and life partner of Mayor Eleanor Bouw-Spies. To our knowledge, Spies has neither admitted nor denied the charge.

Speaker Wolmarans’ refusal to include the motion of no confidence on the agenda is a serious breach of the Rules of Order, a by-law that governs the functioning of the Knysna municipal council.

What do the Rules of Order say?

Rule 26(2) provides: “The Speaker must either put the motion in the agenda or refer such motion to the committee, which is dealing with the matter.”

There is of course no committee that deals with this or any other motion of no confidence. In that case, the rule says she “must…put the motion in the agenda”. “Must” is mandatory. She has no choice.

By refusing to include the motion, Speaker Wolmarans clearly violated the rule.

In so doing, she ventured into dangerous territory, a step that she, and the Knysna DA, may one day regret. The Council’s Speaker is required to act impartially. A Speaker who violates the rules governing her conduct loses the respect of Council, and the voters. She has set a dangerous precedent that may well tempt other speakers, from other political parties that may one day rule Knysna, to follow in her footsteps by breaching a clear and binding rule. And what will the DA say then?

The DA has always held itself out as the party of principle. The party of honesty, probity, and fairness. Last Wednesday, the DA lost its bearings.

Faced with an unyielding ANC, Speaker Wolmarans ultimately agreed during a recess to place the motion of no confidence on the agenda of the special council meeting scheduled for this coming Wednesday, 6 June.

At that meeting, she will undoubtedly come under severe political pressure to rule that the vote on the motion be by a show of hands, in order to ensure strict DA party discipline, and prevent any DA councillor(s) from voting their conscience. Because any DA councillor who is seen to vote in favor of the motion may very well be subjected to disciplinary action, and probable expulsion from the party. Speaker Wolmarans now has a chance to redeem herself, by allowing a secret ballot, and offering those who are most familiar with the personalities and issues involved a chance to vote their conscience. The Knysna Ratepayers Association is watching, and waiting.

The Committee