KNYSNA NEWS - Ever since Knysna mayor Mark Willemse took office last year he has been hounded by his own party's leadership to resign.
The most common reason offered by the DA is that he violated internal DA regulations or processes by accepting the position. But exactly which ones and in precisely what way they have been violated have remained a bone of contention.
The most recent mudslinging match between Willemse and Ward 10 councillor Peter Myers in one corner and members of the DA leadership in the other, was ignited by the recent Ward 5 by-elections, with Knysna's DA constituency head Dion George again accusing Myers and Willemse of siding with the ANC during a motion of no confidence that saw former mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies removed from office last year and replaced by Willemse.
Myers in turn once more offered the counter-argument that not only had he and Willemse voted with their conscience against Bouw-Spies but they were following orders from the very same DA leadership (Anton Bredell) now condemning their actions, to propose Willemse as mayor.
The confusing conflict in the Knysna DA has morphed into cyclical, vitriolic squabble with no consensus in sight. In an attempt to shed some light on the tiresome to-and-fro, Knysna-Plett Herald (KPH) has, since the end of July, repeatedly requested the DA to answer a number of questions about this issue – now re-encapsulated in this writ – but with no resulting response. The DA yesterday promised to provide such answers but without stipulating when. The result of this all is a prevailing nebulousness.
What has not been made clear, for instance, is why the DA still insists on the resignation of Willemse when he and Myers have already been exonerated from the same accusations by an internal disciplinary process instituted by the party's own office.
Or how Willemse and Myers could have made a decision to "go against their caucus and leadership of the party" when it was found during the appeal of the abovementioned disciplinary process – according to Myers – that there was no caucus decision that all DA members should vote for Bouw-Spies during the motion of no confidence against her in 2018.
It all raises the unsettling question as to whether the DA leadership expects its caucus members to vote against their conscience if and when the DA demands it, and even if this goes against the Constitutional Court judgement regarding such matters. And if it expects its members to break municipal laws in favour of DA procedure.
The majority of members in the DA caucus left the chambers when the motion of no confidence against Bouw-Spies was tabled. The invidious action left the arena open for an ANC takeover. According to both Myers and Willemse, they then consulted with DA provincial chairperson MEC Anton Bredell who advised them to do anything they could to have the DA stay in power. Which they subsequently did by proposing a DA mayor (Willemse) to succeed Bouw-Spies. It remains unclear why the DA caucus members who left the chambers and thus directly placed the DA in a position where it could have lost power in Knysna to the ANC, have not been persecuted and asked to resign – instead of Meyers and Willemse who, on the surface at least, seems to have rather "saved the day" for the DA. According to the municipal rules-of-order bylaw, it is illegal to vacate the chambers under such circumstances.
Had Myers and Willemse followed their fellow DA caucus members out of chambers, they would have been, firstly, in violation of these rules and, secondly, together with the rest of the DA caucus members, responsible for placing the DA in a politically invidious position. They did neither but instead, as instructed by the DA leadership, chose to remain and follow the only course left open to them to keep the DA in power – by proposing Willemse as the new mayor in order to maintain a DA leadership in Knysna.
Were the DA caucus members who left the hall instructed by the DA leadership to do so knowing it would constitute contravening the rules of order? And if so, why were Myers and Willemse not included in this instruction if it was a "unanimous decision"? Could one then also assume from the fact that the DA caucus members who illegally left the chambers not being reprimanded or asked to resign, that the DA leadership endorses such illegal conduct?
In a recent circular compiled by the DA's mayor of choice, Michelle Wasserman, which was sanctioned by the DA, statements such as ''Willemse opted to accept a nomination to the position of mayor and was subsequently elected by a majority of ANC councillors'' and "He [Willemse] is effectively an ANC councillor/mayor" all quite obviously imply that Willemse and Myers somehow betrayed the DA and even colluded with the ANC in voting out Bouw-Spies and electing Willemse.
The DA has never explained how this could be possible when the ANC did not even vote in the election of Willemse to the position as mayor.
According to the Municipal Structures Act, a new mayor must be elected as soon as a presiding one is deposed. Schedule 3(5) of the Act states that if only one candidate is nominated, the person presiding must declare that candidate elected. In order to avoid an ANC takeover and acting on the instruction of the DA leadership, Myers nominated Willemse for the position of mayor. The nomination was seconded by the KUC's Welcome Salaze while the ANC did not nominate a candidate.
In a recent media statement, Dion claims the DA was caught off guard when Willemse and Myers voted against Bouw-Spies and thus disrupted the party's regular procedure to select a new mayor, but Myers had made his intentions to vote against Bouw-Spies public a week before the motion against the former mayor. Dion also said Myers made his decision on the strength of "various allegations that had not been tested" in provincial and/or federal structures. According to Myers he had filed an official complaint against Bouw-Spies with the provincial DA government a year before Bouw-Spies' motion of no confidence (some two years ago to date) and has not had any official progress report since then.
The DA's responses to these nagging questions will hopefully serve to provide some clarity on the issue. – Eds
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