KNYSNA NEWS - A cliffhanging saga playing out in the Western Cape High Court which holds the future of former Knysna mayor Mark Willemse in balance has kept the town's citizens in suspense since Friday and by the time of going to print, no final judgement was forthcoming.
Legal jousting between the DA and Mark Willemse's counsel over the high court application for interdictory relief that would place Willemse's removal from the DA (and thus as DA councillor and mayor of Knysna) on hold, continues while townsfolk wait with bated breath for the result. The hearing was postponed from 11 October to 15 October when both legal teams completed their arguments and now await judgement.
After more than a year of unsuccessfully hounding Willemse to resign as mayor, the DA eventually terminated his party membership on 30 September.
The correspondence was forwarded to municipal manager Dr Sitembele Vatala who was legally obligated to react to it within 14 days. Willemse's legal team sent a request on the same day to Vatala asking him for 10 days' grace to submit to the Western Cape High Court the application for an interdict which, if granted, would place on hold Willemse's removal from the DA (and his consequential removal as councillor and mayor).
MM uses his discretion
Vatala, however, chose not to wait until the 14 days had expired and the interdict application was heard in the high court, but instead declared the mayoral seat vacant and disbanded the mayoral committee before the deadline. This has left Knysna without a mayor and mayoral committee and disrupted the regular course of municipal functioning.
Another of the MM's obligations within the allotted 14-day period was to liaise with the Independent Electoral Commision (IEC) to set a date for a by-election to select a new mayor. Willemse's legal team also applied to have this process interdicted.
According to Willemse's founding affidavit in support of his urgent application, apart from asking the court to suspend the "alleged cessation" of his DA membership and declare it "of no force and effect", he also sought an interdict restraining the DA, the IEC and local government MEC Anton Bredell from "calling and setting a date for a by-election" in accordance with the Municipal Structures Act. The latter interdictory relief was granted by the court on Friday 11 October and the process of scheduling a by-election was suspended.
The DA has tried to use the "recall clause" (or so-called "De Lille clause") enshrined in their own federal constitution to circumvent the applicable statute and remove a mayor simply with a motion of no confidence approved by his party's caucus, instead of by a motion of no confidence of the full council, as the Structures Act requires.
"I as mayor am no longer held accountable to the voters who elected the councillors for Knysna Municipality; rather my tenure is made dependent on the wishes of a majority of the DA's local caucus and its federal executive," the remedy section of Willemse's affidavit states.
"This not only blurs the distinction between party and state, but it is a brazen attempt by the party to usurp the function envisaged by the Constitution and the Structures Act by the council."
In the interim, between this being penned and the time KPH is dropped off at your closest retail outlet, the judge may or may not have yet made one of the following decisions:
- An interdict is granted in which Willemse remains as councillor and mayor, pending the outcome of the review application to set aside the DA's termination of his membership. In this instance, the mayoral committee (mayco) would also remain in position.
- An interdict is granted in which Willemse remains a councillor but not the mayor, pending the outcome of the review application. In this instance ANC deputy mayor Aubrey Tsengwa becomes acting mayor and he appoints a new mayco.
- An interdict is granted whereby Willemse is no longer a councillor, or the mayor, but the by-election is put on hold pending the outcome of the review. In this instance the ANC deputy mayor becomes acting mayor and appoints a new mayco. The ANC and DA will then have eight councillors each, making it easier for the ANC to govern the town.
- No interdict is granted. Willemse is no longer a councillor or mayor and the by-election proceeds in December or January. In this instance the ANC deputy mayor becomes acting mayor and appoints a new mayco. Here too, the ANC and DA will have eight councillors each, making it easier for the ANC to step into a governing position.
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