KNYSNA NEWS - DA members have raised concerns about suspected pre-election favouritism after the DA was prevented from campaigning at the Knysna Mall before the 11 November by-elections.
Knysna Heights residents and DA acting treasurer Dee Hollely and her husband Peter, in a letter to Knysna-Plett Herald (KPH), said they expected pre-elections to be conducted in a spirit of "honesty, integrity and trustworthiness", but that this might not have been the case at the mall.
They said the DA applied to the relevant authorities in Johannesburg, Old Mutual Property, to have an election display in the mall. This was agreed to, money was paid and a contract was issued to the DA.
When the DA arrived, [former mayor and now independent electoral Ward 9 candidate] Mark Willemse already had a stand.
According to the Hollelys, both the DA and Susan Campbell of the Knysna Independent Movement (KIM) were refused permission to campaign at the mall as they represent political parties, but were told by the administrative assistant of the Knysna Mall, Samantha Marais, that Willemse could stay as he is an independent candidate.
The Hollelys said the DA had approached the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which refuted that an independent candidate does not represent a political party. They were also surprised to see Willemse's pamphlets with a table and chairs were still there on display over the weekend prior to the election.
Western Cape IEC officer Courtney Sampson this week affirmed that during local government elections, there is no difference between a party's chosen ward candidates campaigning for their party and independent candidates campaigning for themselves. "In by-elections, people are voting for the person, and if a party is not allowed to campaign, then that must be the same for independent candidates," Sampson said.
Responding to questions from KPH, Willemse said he was never asked to leave the mall, but was aware that two of the other political parties contesting the by-elections were refused permission to campaign. "I confined myself to the designated Woolworths court," he said.
Campbell said, "While at the mall, KIM was asked on Tuesday last week (3 November) to cancel our pre-arranged mall engagements, which we did.''
According to the Hollelys, the "sheer ducking and diving that surrounded this whole debacle emphasised the lack of transparency, accountability and fairness shown by all involved in permitting this display to remain. These are the very individuals purporting to be for the good of all in Knysna."
Marais referred KPH's questions to Old Mutual Property, whose spokesperson Sakina Norsaka replied, "Old Mutual Property has a strict policy of remaining apolitical and we do not allow any politically affiliated events or promotions at our premises. When we became aware that a political party had been given permission to make a promotional court booking in the Knysna Mall, we apologised for the oversight, cancelled the booking with immediate effect and refunded them. Two other political independents were also turned down." Norsaka apologised "unreservedly for any confusion this may have caused".
According to Dee Hollely, the DA had not been refunded by Old Mutual Property by the time KPH went to print on Wednesday.
Norsaka also said that Old Mutual Property has clarified its strong "no exceptions'' apolitical policy to all employees and tenants to prevent any future misunderstanding, but did not specify why Willemse specifically was allowed to remain campaigning at the mall after the other candidates had left.
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