Today, the future of Knysna hangs in the balance.
Newly-elected Mayor Mark Willemse is coming under intense pressure from DA bosses in Cape Town to resign. We hope and pray that he will resist that pressure and fulfil his mandate to clean up this town, begin introducing good governance and effective service delivery, and start building the bright future that Knysna has so long been denied.
Mayor Willemse did not seek this appointment—the mayorship was thrust upon him when former mayor Eleanor Bouw-Spies lost the confidence of Council Wednesday night, and was sent packing. Despite the fact that the motion of no confidence was brought by the ANC, the ANC chose to elect Willemse, a DA councillor, as mayor, and Ricky Van Aswegen, a COPE councillor, as his deputy.
This is unprecedented. The ANC could easily have elected one of their own. The fact that they chose not to speaks eloquently of the trust and respect that Willemse enjoys in their communities, as well as in his own ward.
The reaction to Willemse’s election has been overwhelmingly positive. Of the more than 5,000 people reached by our two most recent Facebook posts to date, only one or two have raised concerns. The people of Knysna have welcomed Willemse with open arms. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, there is hope for our town.
The only real opposition seems to be from DA’s masters in Cape Town. They would be well-advised to back off, and not to interfere. Intent on advancing the political fortunes of the former mayor, they have inexplicably turned a deaf ear to the complaints of Knysna’s residents for the past two years. Support for the DA in Knysna has evaporated during that period, but their masters in Cape Town have blithely ignored this.
The fact is, they should welcome Willemse’s election. Under his leadership, the DA might actually stand a chance of winning the next local elections. In light of the outpouring of popular support for Willemse, and the glaring absence of support for the former mayor, the DA bosses’ efforts to oust him are inexplicable. They are working against the DA’s own interests. (And has it not occurred to them that if Willemse resigns, the DA will automatically lose the mayorship, since the deputy mayor, who is not DA, automatically takes the mayor’s place?)
But, no. Instead, we are faced with the unedifying comments of one Bonginkosi Madikezela, formerly of the ANC and then the UDM, and currently DA party leader for the Western Cape, who complains in the national press of a “coup” in Knysna. “Coup” is short for “coup d’ état”, which the Cambridge dictionary defines as a “sudden defeat of a government through illegal force by a small group, often a military one.” Please, Mr Madikezela! You are not doing your party’s reputation any good at all by abusing the language in this way. The replacement of former mayor Bouw-Spies was accomplished lawfully, in full compliance with applicable procedures, by a motion of no confidence. The only illegality was that all but two DA councilors walked out of the meeting without seeking permission from the chair.
A petition was started by a private citizen this morning, asking residents to show their support for our new mayor. We support the petition, and urge all Knysna residents who believe that Willemse’s election represents a decisive step in the right direction to sign it today (see below).