KRA Speaks Out

The Knysna Ratepayers Association has recently pursued two initiatives in furtherance of our constitutional mandate, which is:
“4.1.3 to promote a high standard of municipal service delivery and to strive to ensure that the administration of the municipality is composed of competent, honest and reliable officials who are appointed lawfully and promoted on merit;
4.1.4 to uncover tender irregularities, corruption and misuse of public property and to ensure that appropriate action is taken against municipal officials and councillors acting unlawfully.”
Constitution of the Knysna Ratepayers Association

COMPLAINTS AGAINST MUNICIPAL MANAGER (“MM”) VATALA AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER (“CFO”) MEMANI

In October 2019 it was discovered that Knysna Municipality was in the midst of a serious financial crisis, or “cash crunch”.
As a result, in February 2020 the MM, Dr Vatala, was suspended by the Council, pending an investigation.
We became aware that properties to a value exceeding R60 000 000.00, that had previously been disclosed as Contingent Assets, had inexplicably been omitted from our Annual Financial Statements by the CFO. The MM, who is also the Accounting Officer, signed off on those statements. The Auditor General queried the removal of those assets and was provided with false and/or misleading information regarding their status. We submitted a complaint to Deputy Mayor (“DM”) Tsengwa against MM Vatala in connection with this matter, as well as in connection with a tender that should have been awarded to a local company, but was unlawfully awarded to a company from out of town that had tendered a price R3 000 000.00 higher than the local company. CFO Memane was also implicated in the second complaint.
The Council resolved to charge MM Vatala in connection with our complaint, but it became apparent to us that the CFO was not being investigated. On the 21st of May we therefore submitted our complaints against the CFO to AMM Gratz and DM Tsengwa. Our first two complaints were identical to the complaint against suspended MM Vatala, and two additional complaints relating to tenders were added.
On the 27th of May 2020, the day before the Council meeting, we received a letter from DM Tsengwa advising us that they needed more information relating to our complaint and that it would not serve before Council the following day. Although our complaint had been submitted in exactly the same format as our complaint against MM Vatala, DM Tsengwa requested a resolution, a signature and a date on the complaint.
At the Council meeting on 28 May 2020, Council was informed that our complaint would serve before the next Council meeting, as long as we provided the requested information. At the close of the meeting, Acting MM Gratz, CFO Memane and Councillor Peter J. Myers all resigned.
We will not engage in speculation here as to the reasons for those resignations. Our actions, as set out in this brief memo, speak for themselves.

KNYSNA MUNICIPAL PLANNING TRIBUNAL

A Special Council meeting had been set down for 14 May 2020. Although there was an item on the agenda relating to the Planning Tribunal, there was no content. The Planning Tribunal hears all disputed development applications and the competence and integrity of the members is of considerable importance to Knysna’s residents and ratepayers.
The report from the Acting MM was only published the day before the meeting. The report proposed the appointment of both the external and internal members, but no information concerning their knowledge or experience of land use planning was provided.
We requested an opportunity to make submissions to council regarding the proposed members, but never received a response to our request.
We learned that all the members had been appointed during a Council meeting that we could not follow because arrangements had not yet been made to permit members of the public to observe and listen to virtual Council meetings in real time.
Whilst we have no concerns about the external members who were appointed, we have no information about two of the internal members, and serious concerns about one of the internal members. We therefore formally requested reasons for the decision as well as access to information relating to the process that was carried out.
Due to our concerns about the internal members, we further requested the municipality to agree to mediation once we had received the information and asked Acting MM Gratz to refrain at this point from publishing the names of the members in the Government Gazette, in order to avoid fruitless and wasteful expenditure should the membership of the tribunal be altered following the mediation process.
This morning we received a letter from DM Tsengwa stating that:
“[T]he complaint against the CFO will definitely be submitted to Council as soon as my office has received a response to our letter dated 27 May 2020. I have already informed the office of the Speaker that we may require a Special Council meeting to consider same. I reiterate my previous advices that any complaint of financial misconduct is extremely serious in nature and I assure you that same will receive the required attention.”

The Committee

Notice of AGM

Knysna Ratepayers Association Notice of the Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting will be held at the Knysna Angling Club, 15 Waterfront Dr, Knysna Central at 5.30 for 6pm on Tuesday 25 September 2018.

knysna.ratepayers.assoc@gmail.com

Mayor Willemse and Cllr Meyers tough decision

MAYOR MARK WILLEMSE AND COUNCILLOR PETER MYERS
FACE TOUGH CHOICES NEXT WEEK

Mayor Mark Willemse and Councillor Peter Myers have received their sentences from the DA’s Provincial Executive Committee (“PEC”).

Mayor Willemse’s sentence is slightly different from the sentence recommended by the DA Provincial Disciplinary Committee that held his and Myers’ disciplinary hearing on 2 and 3 August (see our Facebook post of 4 August, below).

The PEC has told Willemse that his membership in the DA is terminated, however, his termination will be suspended as long as he adheres to the following three conditions:

1. He accepts the outcome of the Federal Executive instituted process to select a new mayoral candidate for Knysna.
2. He resigns as mayor two working days prior to the mayoral candidate interviews.
3. He removes Councillor Peter Myers from the mayoral committee (“the Mayco”) within ten working days of receipt of the letter notifying him of his sentence.

Failure to adhere to any of these three suspensive conditions, in the opinion of the PEC, will lead to the automatic termination of his membership in the DA. Although the sentence does not spell this out, termination of membership in the DA will result in his removal as a DA councillor.

In addition, Willemse is directed to motivate and submit a list for a new mayoral committee to the PEC, which will then analyse it and recommend to the Federal Executive Committee whether it should be approved or not.

He has the right to appeal this sentence to the Federal Legal Commission within ten working days of receipt of the letter containing the sentence, i.e. by 7 September 2018.

What do you think Mark Willemse should do?

Should he comply with the three conditions and undergo the mayoral selection process, in the hope that he will be chosen as the DA’s candidate for Knysna’s mayor?

Or should he appeal to the DA Federal Legal Commission and if, as is likely, his appeal is not granted, take the matter on review to the High Court?

The following additional factors may help you decide:

a. Unlike the PEC’s sentence, the PDC’s recommended sentence did not compel him to resign two days prior to the mayoral candidate interviews, rather, it allowed him to continue as mayor and resign only if he was not the winner of the mayoral selection process, in which case he would have had to resign on the day of and before the Council meeting called to elect a new mayor. What if any is the significance of now forcing him to resign two days before he is interviewed as part of the mayoral selection process? Does it tell us anything about his chances?
b. Willemse was elected mayor by Council following the ouster of former mayor Eleanor Bouw-Spies (“EBS”) by a Motion of No Confidence (“MONC”) brought by the ANC, supported by COPE, KUC, Myers and Willemse himself. Accordingly, he must keep the ANC reasonably happy, or risk being removed by an MONC from the ANC, supported by DA councillors or councillors from other parties who may who wish to see him replaced. In addition, Willemse probably does not currently have the support of the entire DA caucus. Several members are still not backing him, but wish to see EBS returned to the mayorship. Those DA members may try to persuade some councillors of the ANC or other parties to remove Willemse as mayor by means of an MONC. They have already tried to do this once. (There were also allegations of attempts to buy votes in that instance).
c. If Willemse complies with all three conditions, undergoes the mayoral selection process and is chosen as the DA’s mayoral candidate, and is then approved by a vote of Council, he will have the entire DA caucus behind him, and it will be much easier for him to govern.
d. If Willemse complies with all three conditions, undergoes the mayoral selection process, and is not chosen, he will still remain a DA councillor, but he will obviously not have the same authority as if he were mayor.
e. Willemse does not and cannot know if he will be selected by the DA as their mayoral candidate. Everything depends on the composition of the selection committee. There will be people on that committee who deeply resent his voting against the DA caucus and removing EBS as mayor on 6 June, and their emphasis on strict party discipline may make them intractable opponents, and may even sway other committee members to vote against him. Powerful, outspoken provincial DA party head Bonginkosi Madikizela clearly falls into this category, however, his ability to persuade others to vote with him may have suffered as a result of his friendship with and backing of Independent Councillor and former Bouw-Spies coalition partner Velile Waxa, who has been charged with the premeditated murder of Councillor Victor Molosi. ( Bongi even went so far as to announce on 21 March that Councillor Waxa was joining the DA. See the Knysna-Plett Herald of 27 March 2018). But the selection committee will also include people who admire Willemse and appreciate his hard work for the party, his highly successful stint as Speaker of the Eden district council, his honesty, and his popularity with all of Knysna’s communities. And the selection committee should also include people who appreciate that in voting to remove EBS, Willemse was voting his conscience, because he believed that it was the only way to bring an end to alleged corruption and maladministration, and that by voting against his own caucus, Willemse did the right thing, at great personal risk to his career, unlike all of his DA peers except Peter Myers.
f. One of the three conditions is that Willemse remove his ally, Peter Myers, from the mayoral committee. However, he will obviously not have to do that if Myers resigns first. Based on Myers’ sentence by the PEC, however, (which is discussed below), it is fairly clear that DA party leaders wish to keep Myers from exercising any real power on the Knysna council, and to break up the highly effective duo of Willemse and Myers.
g. Even if he is selected as the DA’s mayoral candidate, Willemse must then be approved by a majority vote of Council, which is normally held by secret ballot. Will even those DA councillors who still support EBS vote along party lines, in favour of Willemse? Regardless of who the DA chooses, will it have enough votes in Council to elect its chosen nominee as mayor, if DA coalition partner Velile Waxa is still in jail, or has been dismissed as a councillor by MEC Anton Bredell as a result of his conviction for breaching the Code of Conduct for Councillors?
h. Willemse must surely believe that he was right to vote to remove EBS for alleged maladministration and corruption, and that he should not have been found guilty. If Willemse decides not to comply with the three conditions, but instead to appeal against the PEC’s sentence in order to clear his name, what are his chances of prevailing before the Federal Legal Commission?
i. If he does not comply with the three conditions, appeals to the Federal Legal Commission, and his appeal is denied, and he then takes that appeal on review to the High Court, what are his chances of prevailing there? And how long will he be able to continue as mayor while the case before the High Court is pending? And, will he be able to govern effectively without the support of the entire DA caucus whilst his case is on appeal… or will the bitter-enders finally come round to supporting him?
j. It should be noted that Willemse’s chances of prevailing before the High Court are probably much better than they were before the PDC and the PEC. The PDC acknowledged that Willemse had voted his conscience based on his belief that something had to be done to bring ongoing corruption and maladministration to an end. However, the PDC refused to apply the applicable case law in De Lille v Democratic Alliance and others (see, esp. point 7), where the court held that a councillor had a right, and even a duty, to vote his conscience, even if that meant going against the DA rule that a councillor may not vote against his caucus. Unlike the PDC and the PEC, the High Court would normally follow that precedent, and find Willemse not guilty.
k. There is also a third option open to Willemse: resign as mayor and councillor, and resign from the DA, forcing a by-election which he would have an extremely good chance of winning as an independent candidate from Ward 9. If elected (and if Myers followed the same process in Ward 10 and was elected), it is possible they could together act as king-makers and power brokers on the divided Council, and the mayorship could be the price of their support for the ANC or the DA.

Mark Willemse clearly faces a very difficult decision between now and September 7: there are many, many imponderables that must be weighed. And he must take a decision—if he does not, the matter will be decided for him. However, there may be other developments between now and the 7 September deadline, which could level the playing field in his favour, and strengthen his hand. We shall see.

Turning now to the case of Councillor Peter Myers:

Like Willemse, Myers was found guilty of misconduct by voting his conscience in an effort to end alleged corruption and maladministration, instead of voting with the caucus to preserve the status quo. Like Willemse, Myers received a suspended sentence from the PEC, subject to three somewhat different conditions:

1. He must attend all DA caucus and coalition meetings, unless leave of absence is duly granted by the whip.
2. He must resign from the Mayco with ten working days, and serve as a mere member of the portfolio committees that he had chaired.
3. He must adhere to the DA’s social media policy regarding any communication concerning the disciplinary proceeding or related matters.

Point 1 is easy to comply with. At his PDC disciplinary hearing, Myers said that he had had refused to attend DA coalition meetings because of the presence there of Independent Councillor and coalition partner Velile Waxa, who had committed breaches of the Code of Conduct for Councillors for which he was subsequently convicted by a Knysna Council disciplinary committee. That committee recommended to MEC Anton Bredell that Waxa be removed from Council, and Bredell should be reaching a decision on that matter shortly. Waxa, who is charged with murder and is presently sitting in jail, presumably will not be attending any DA coalition meetings for some time, if ever.

Point 2, resigning from the Mayco, is not difficult to do: the only question is, will he decide to do it?

He is already adhering to point 3, and has little to gain by breaching that condition.

Surely, however, Myers does not believe that he should have been found guilty, and be punished for voting his conscience to end alleged corruption and maladministration. Like Willemse, Myers has good reason to appeal against his sentence and clear his name. Like Willemse, Myers’ chances on appeal, and on review, would be much better than they were before the PDC and the PEC. He should be able to remain on the Mayco, and as portfolio committee chair, for many months whilst the High Court considers his case. He should be able to continue to work for the best interests of all of Knysna, despite the DA hierarchy’s efforts to force him into line. Myers also has the same third option as Willemse: resign as councillor and from the DA, and stand in a by-election in his own ward. Due to the composition of his ward and, more significantly, that of his ward committee, his election there as an Independent may not be a cakewalk, however he would have a good chance of winning, depending on who his opponent is, and on his choice of campaign manager.

But for Myers, the potential upside of accepting his sentence is not as great as it is for Willemse. Willemse is, at least in theory, being given an opportunity to be chosen by the DA as their candidate for mayor. Myers is not being told he can remain on the Mayco and as portfolio chair if he complies with his sentence. His choice is to agree to be demoted, or to have his membership in the party terminated.

What should Peter Myers do? What should Mark Willemse do? What decision is in the best interests of Knysna’s residents?

ACDP stance on Knysna

The Knysna Ratepayers Association strongly endorses the ACDP’s support of our duly-elected Mayor, Mark Willemse, and condemns the ongoing effort by high-level, self-serving DA politicians to remove him. We are tired of being pawns in provincial DA power struggles. We are tired of a DA that refuses to back the first mayor we have had in many years who is genuinely committed to protecting the interests of Knysna’s residents. We have had enough of DA provincial bosses who abuse the interests of Knysna’s residents to advance the political careers of their deeply compromised favourites. You know who you are. If we cannot appeal to your principles, at least we can warn you of the damage to your own political careers that will inevitably occur if you continue this charade. Please watch the attached video of ACDP Provincial Parliament Member Ferlon Christians telling it like it is…

DA Disciplinary proceedings

The DA disciplinary proceeding of Mayor Willemse and Councillor Myers concluded Friday afternoon. The Panel found both defendants guilty of having broken the rule requiring that all caucus members vote with the caucus, even though it found that they had voted their conscience. It only found them guilty on that one count: of having failed to vote with their caucus.

Here are the Panel’s recommended sentences, based on notes taken when the recommendation was read out.

Mayor Mark Willemse: Membership in the DA is terminated immediately, however, the sentence is suspended provided that:
1- he removes Councillor Myers from the Mayco within ten days of acceptance of the recommendation by the Provincial Executive Committee,
2 – all media releases be approved beforehand by the Provincial Executive Committee,
3 – he agrees to go through the DA’s formal mayoral selection process, and if he is not picked, he immediately resigns as mayor.

Violation of any of conditions 1, 2 or 3 lifts the suspension of the sentence and his termination as a DA member takes immediate effect.

Councillor Peter Myers: Membership in the DA is terminated immediately, however, the sentence is suspended provided that:
1- he henceforth attends all caucus meetings,
2- he resigns from the Mayco within 10 days of acceptance of the Panel’s recommendation by the Provincial Executive Committee,
3- he diligently adheres to the DA’s social media policy.

Violation of any of conditions 1, 2 or 3 lifts the suspension of the sentence and his termination as a DA member takes immediate effect.

The Panel was composed of Chairman Leroux and two other members: Mrs Rabe, and Mr America. Mrs Rabe is the mayor of Prince Albert, and Mr Derrick America is the head of the provincial disciplinary committee. The Committee Assistant (effectively the prosecutor) was Mr Anton Coetzee.

DA Disciplinary Panel ruling

The DA Disciplinary Panel has ruled that the disciplinary hearing of Mayor Willemse and Councillor Myers is open to the public and the press. We are delighted with the ruling.
KRA Chairman Chris Gould, Yaseen Gaffar and Sedgefield Edge editor Bomber Webb are in attendance, along with 4-5 other residents. The boardroom is tiny so unfortunately it is packed full, but we are confident that the proceedings will be reported fully in the local press.

DA IGNORES KRA’S REQUEST

DA IGNORES KRA’S REQUEST TO ARGUE WHY PROCEEDINGS SHOULD BE PUBLIC

The Democratic Alliance are not responding to our repeated requests to be allowed to make representations at tomorrow’s disciplinary proceeding of Councillor Myers and Mayor Willemse. We are only asking for a chance to argue why the proceedings should be open to the public and the media. We sent them letters or left phone messages on 5 July, 27 July, 30 July, and 31 July. What message do you suppose they are trying to send us with their silence?

I suppose they must have already made up their minds, and are not willing to hear our arguments. They clearly want the proceedings to be held in secret. Now, why would the prosecution in quasi-judicial proceedings want to conceal those proceedings from the public? Can anyone help me with this? Am I missing something?

UYS REPLACES ARENDS

UYS REPLACES ARENDS

The KRA are pleased to report that our former chairman and current Committee member and treasurer Ian Uys has been selected to replace ACDP Councillor Shakespeare Arends on the Knysna Municipal Council. Ian ran on the ACDP ticket in the last election and will of course resign from our Committee prior to taking up his new duties.

Ian, we wish you the best of luck in your new position, and are confident that your many years of experience in municipal affairs, sound judgment and strong work ethic will help turn our town around and contribute to making Knysna a better place to live, for all its residents.

The Committee

Tragic murder of Cllr Molosi

The KRA were profoundly shocked and saddened to learn of the violent death last night of highly-respected ANC Councillor Victor Molosi. Our hearts and thoughts are with his family at this terrible time, and we extend our deepest condolences to them, his friends, comrades and colleagues. Knysna is much the worse for his passing.

MUNICIPAL MANAGER RESIGNS

MUNICIPAL MANAGER RESIGNS

Knysna’s municipal manager, Kam Chetty, resigned today.
Executive Mayor, Mark Willemse confirmed he received Mr Chetty’s resignation earlier this afternoon.

Mr Chetty will leave the employ of the municipality at the end of August.