Was Rowan Spies, the Knysna Democratic Alliance’s #1 candidate to the Eden District, involved in an ANC cash for jobs scheme? An auditing report raises serious questions.
In 2011, when his wife, Eleanore Bouw-Spies, was the ANC Mayor of Knysna, Spies was the front-man for a company called Xylophone Investments. His partner was Estelle Gie, wife of a local businessman.
Xylophone Investments was involved in two scandals in Bitou Municipality a.k.a. Plettenberg Bay.
The first controversy was when the lessee of Moby Dick’s, a restaurant with a rare beach location, was booted after the Council put the lease of the premises out to tender. Whether true or not, it was a move widely seen as ANC motivated. Henk Visser, the restaurant owner, stated to the Sunday Times that, “There is obviously a political agenda.”
The matter became more contentious when Kobus Smit, the mining billionaire and Knysna owner of Featherbed Company, stated that the Xylophone’s tender documents had lied that his company had agreed to assist in the restaurant’s marketing and running.
Notably, Rowan Spies had previously worked for the Featherbed before becoming an estate agent for Pam Golding Properties.
It must be considered that there was a family interest in getting into the trade. His wife, Eleanor Bouw-Spies, failed to secure the Knysna Oyster Company restaurant tender from SANParks.
The matter became clouded, Xylophone never practised the deal they’d won, and the matter vanished from view.
CAUGHT IN A LIE
The second, bigger controversy is far clearer and involves a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) function hosted by Bitou. It may also have vanished from the public mind but a report by the auditing firm Mazars, initiated after the DA won the municipality, offers a window into kickbacks from Xlyophone to Ralph Links, then Bitou’s Head of Strategic Services. Links was considered to be ANC.
In a nutshell, Xylophone charged for work that they didn’t do. Ralph Links then provided that work at the public’s expense. Money, with the reference ‘Ralph’ was paid into the joint account of Rowan and Eleanore Bouw-Spies.
Estelle Gie, Rowan’s partner, claimed that it was an error that should’ve been referenced ‘Rowan’. However, she was unable to explain why the amount was separate to Rowan’s share paid a minute before.
Additionally, she lied that PAYE tax was paid on the ‘Ralph’ payment. In fact, all Spies’ payments, except for ‘Ralph’ had PAYE paid.
Worsening matters, Mazar’s proved that Gie fraudulently altered a date on an email so as to support her version of events with a falsehood.
The full report makes for very interesting reading and should be read as an accompaniment to this blog. Download ‘Mazar’s Final Report for DA Bitou Municipality on Xylophone investments and Rowan Spies’.
It must be asked:
- Why did the DA not make the Mazars report on Xylophone public?
- Why did the DA, whose disciplinary process was in an advanced stage (and involved more municipal officials) pull the plug?
- Why did MEC Anton Bredell not act on an extensive report submitted to him by Councillor Johann Brummer, the only Councillor who voted for the investigation and disciplinary process to be completed (suspiciously, Brummer was kicked out of the party soon thereafter)?
- Why have the DA ignored this history whilst making Rowan Spies their #1 candidate to Eden District?
- What has Rowan Spies, who seems to be a failed businessmen and lightweight estate agent, done to have earned such a prestigious and important nomination?
- Is there any truth to the ANC rumour that his wife, Eleanore, had a cooperation agreement with the DA whilst still in the ANC and that when she left them she campaigned for an independent who’d left the ANC?
- Rowan and Eleanore got a divorce but, in reality, they are a couple who lives together and attends functions together as if they are married. Why was it necessary to have that separation on paper only?
- How can Eleanore Bouw-Spies be the DA’s Knysna mayoral candidate whilst Knysna would fall under Eden where her ‘husband’ would work?
- Why was Eleanore given a free ride by the DA and the press when the Xylophone scandals happened? That free ride from the DA-aligned Knysna-Plett Herald continues.
- How does the ex-ANC Mayor become the DA’s Speaker and then, after failing to investigate her fellow councillors I’ve accused of misconduct? (as is her duty as Speaker), become the DA Mayoral candidate?
- How does an ex-ANC Mayor become the DA’s Mayoral candidate?
James Selfe, Chair of the DA Federal Executive, has so far failed to acknowledge my complaint about this situation (and two other DA candidates, Advocate Julie Seton and Dr Martin Young).
Reggie Smit, the Director of Bitou Municipality’s Corporate Services (who previously occupied the same position in Knysna), has failed to respond to my query.
Eleanore Bouw-Spies has also not responded to my query but her opinion on me was made clear in 2015 when the Knysna-Plett Herald published her open letter against me that included, “I will not be engaging Mr Mike Hampton (Wicked Mike) on any platform at any level.”
Constitutionally, her statement as a public servant (even more so as the Speaker, the guardian of Council morality) was illegal. It was a long and horrendous letter for attack, not answers, yet the Knysna-Plett Herald refused me right of response.
Rowan Spies has also failed to respond but made it clear in June 2014 that he wouldn’t deal with me: “There is nothing I want to contribute to your current crusade against my ex-wife, especially since you see it fit to use my divorce as fodder for your blog. I am a private citizen and see no need to answer any of your questions. My private e-mail is rowansps@*****.com so I’d appreciate it if you could direct future questions there. I doubt I will find it necessary to answer any.”
I have claimed that Speaker Eleanore Bouw-Spies’ DA faction defeated Mayor Georlene Wolmaran’s DA faction, so much so that all the councillors who supported Wolmaran’s are no longer candidates, possibly the biggest shake-up in Knysna’s post-apartheid, political history.
Is a small group seemingly, again, controlling the town? Did hidden politics make Rowan Spies the DA’s #1 choice to Eden and his “wife” the Knysna Mayoral candidate?
Why is there no open scrutiny of political candidates who are supposed to be applying to become public servants?
What’s certain is that public opinion is excluded from contributing to the selection process. The public is simply expected to vote for who they are told to vote for, often for people they don’t even know.
Another certainty is that the DA is continuing to act on its own behalf behind closed doors, without the transparency and cleanliness that was promised the last local elections.
How do we, for the 2016 Municipal Elections, trust a party who has lied to us?