Tomorrow, June 6, the Democratic Alliance faces another Motion of No Confidence in one of their mayors, Eleanore Spies. There’s request for secret vote. The setting is Knysna, the internationally famous tourist town in the Western Cape that’s the most blatant national example of DA corruption.
Mayor Eleanore Spies’ situation is as tricky as De Lille’s but the DA have, so far, treated it differently… possibly because a small town exerts less influence on the country but more likely because the health of the DA’s leadership is inextricably linked to the crimes committed there. They made the mistake of allowing cover-up which barrel-rolled them into more cover-up. They’re liable under the Prevention & Combatting of Corruption Act. They could go to jail. Premier Helen Zille, MEC Alan Winde and MEC Anton Bredell are linked more deeply.
7 years of aggressive corruption could be shallowly mitigated by the DA with a strategic move that focuses on incompetence rather than the corruption itself.
Last week, Mayor Spies failed to pass the budget as required by the Municipal Finance Management Act, maybe because she didn’t believe it would succeed as her cross-party partner, independent councillor Velile Waxa (ex-ANC), has apparently been found guilty in a disciplinary hearing. Worse for her is that the DA’s attempts to eliminate Peter Myers, one of her own DA councillors standing against her corruption, has yet to succeed, the DA Federal Legal Commission yet to deliver their verdict. Waxa could have voted against the budget for revenge, Myers because he’s refusing to participate in the illegal R4-million funding of a section 21 company without tender.
So, last week, at the last Council Meeting, the ANC called for a vote of no confidence which Speaker Georlene Wolmarans illegally denied, choosing DA interests over the law. But she eventually bowed to angry councillors, or maybe realised the possible consequences against herself, and scheduled it for tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if that is before or after the vote on the budget.
Wolmarans is in the worst position of all. She’s as linked to maladministration and corruption as Spies but is being dragged down by the sheer blatancy of Spies’ actions which has included crony appointments and illegally using Public funds to pay personal legal bills. Once in bed with an accomplice, its very hard to get out. The vote gives Wolmarans that opportunity.
But it’s only her decision by superficial law. That’s not contradiction if you believe that Knysna is run from Cape Town by the DA Federal Executive. And Wolmarans likely dares not defy their wishes as she will no longer have the support of her ex-ID partner and friend, Patricia de Lille.
The test of whether Wolmarans makes a decision for the DA FedEx or not may be found in whether she allows secret voting. As transparent as democracy should be, the fact is that a DA councillor not voting with the party will lose their job.
The DA FedEx Option: Wolmarans calls for voting, by a show of councillors’ hands, to decide whether the No Confidence Motion should be held by secret vote or not. That would be a devious way of forcing DA councillors to vote with their party no matter what they feel, essentially forcing them to keep Mayor Spies before the main vote happens.
The Democratic Option: Wolmarans, alone, as she is legally entitled, states that the No Confidence vote will be done by secret ballot (Parliament set precedence with Baleka Mbete’s decision regards Jacob Zuma).
The latter doesn’t guarantee Spies’ removal but it gives it more chance.
Alternatively, the DA could decide that this is an opportunity to save face in the build-up to the elections. They could either order their councillors to vote against Spies openly or they could order Wolmarans to hold the secret vote. This may depend on what dirt Spies has against them.
If they don’t, the DA is damned and will probably lose the town next local election.
And kicking out the Mayor won’t remove her as a Ward councillor so the DA would still have long task to excise her completely.
The risk is that the only way to hold the town together may be to form a coalition with sole COPE councillor, Elrick van Aswegen. He deserves criticism too but at least he’s smart and is one of the few it actually understands Council agendas. He will demand Mayorship which will mean that he suddenly isn’t opposition. And that would surely arrive with his vote to pass the belated budget.
Knysna may be small and the media may refuse to report meaningfully on it but it’s a mecca for the rich and powerful, from overseas holiday home owners to retired Reserve Bank Manager Gill Marcus. Several DA MPs have family links. Many citizens will be watching too. Few will want Spies, on June 7, to be unveiling a statue in commemoration of the Great Knysna Fire which would be the same as as commemorating her failure during that disaster.
If Mayor Spies goes, there will be a rainbow celebration as citizens of all colours and parties rejoice together. It would be a rare South African moment of togetherness. Let’s hope the DA let us have it.
UPDATE: The vote was done openly. No secret ballot. Knysna Mayor Eleanore Spies was been booted out. Speaker Georlene Wolmarans couldn’t delay proceedings forever. Just before 8pm, the Vote of No Confidence succeeded because two DA councillors broke ranks. Congratulations to Councillors Peter Myers and Mark Willemse. The rest of the DA walked out, knowing they were about to lose. Willemse was then elected Mayor and COPE’s Elrick van Aswegen was made his Deputy. Politics just got rocked! The big question is did this happen with or without Cape Town. I’m hoping not.