It’s utterly bizarre that the political and social earthquakes being experienced in Eden District (which includes Oudsthoorn, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay) have been mostly absent from mainstream media. Falling under the Western Cape, it’s predictable (or should i say unforgivably understandable) that the heat between opposition forces would be the hottest in the only DA-led province.
The only, temporary, benefit is that in the chaos of accusations and revenge, the character of both political parties have been revealed i.e. rotten to the core. Today, the drama deepens as 2 of the people who’ve delivered shocking revelations about mismanagement and corruption the past 2 years are now implicated in a financial scandal in Oudtshoorn.
Implicated doesn’t necessarily mean guilty when you consider whose throwing the mud but it raises worrying questions about political responsibility and Municipal accountability. Nic Barrow, an attorney who represented the DA, tried to illegally saddle the Oudtshoorn ratepayers with R4million in legal costs. It created such a scandal that it became one of the rare moments when Helen Zille acted as a leader and stepped in (although it could be said that the DA’s goal was to minimise the mud being flung their way). Instrumental to the expose, was Drewan Baird who blogs through O’Online. And Hardy Mills acted as legal counsel against Barrow.
Yesterday, Nic Barrow got his revenge through his website, Oudtshoorn Waghond. He blogged that the Oudtshoorn Municipality had paid Drewan Baird R490 000 over the previous 5 months. Until last year, Drewan Baird was vehemently critical of all political parties, big and small. This year, the DA took a lashing from him after the ANC-led Oudtshoorn Municipality became his client. He described his services to me as: “I advise on strategic, tactical and crisis communication as directed by the Municipal Manager.” That makes Baird an adviser. Considering that he’s been keeping company with ANC Mayor, Gordon April, the possibility exists that he’s his adviser too (which is ironic because in May last year April was suing him).
Nic Barrow then named Hardy Mills as a lawyer whose received approximately R3million over the same time period from Oudtshoorn Municipality. Hardy Mills has been a controversial figure in Bitou (which includes Plettenberg Bay) though the reasons why vary according to the answerer’s political affiliation. Hardy Mills led the legal charge against the DA and won but in this DA-led province there’s reason to believe in bias because those shocking cases, in which the public was always the loser, never received mainstream coverage.
Getting a response from the players involved was difficult. Baird said he was on the way to Cape Town and that, “…email communication [was] difficult.” Mills, to his credit, spoke for half an hour to me via cellphone but his promise to return to me by evening with more information never materialised. Barrow’s secretary said, “Barrow is at present in Franschhoek busy with his wine cellar and will revert later this week.”
According to Mills, Barrow, a lawyer himself, deliberately left out (with the intention of controversy) that that only a minority of the money would’ve gone to Mills as court cases, with gradation to High Court, require advocates which are very expensive.
It’s important to note that it isn’t a crime to receive money for services rendered. And it’s long been obvious that the legal system is overpriced with justice too often being a commodity for the rich. BUT that does not mean that politicians and municipal employees get to wage battle for power and position at the taxpayers’ expense! Our municipalities are already bankrupt yet our leaders defy this with constant court battles and massive salary boosts. Won or lost with cost to the public!
The DA is likely to win Oudtshoorn back. In fact, their ‘coup d’etat’ almost succeeded – ANC councillors were lured into the DA fold only to have the judge fine them R100 000 each for their breach of justice. Not to mention that one day the DA’s moaning about the ANC and then the next day they’re welcoming the same ‘bad’ people with open arms i.e. the DA, just like the ANC, will do anything to get power.
According to an ANC source, the ANC had initially decided to accept the DA victory. Gordon April, the ANC Mayor, however, chose to fight to stay in power without his party’s blessing. If this is true, then an abuse of state funds becomes an even grosser miscarriage of justice as the public’s right to be represented by whom they choose has been abused. Another source confirmed that this was true but added that after April won a court victory, they jumped back on the bandwagon.
The taxpayer’s coffers have become political piggy banks. At some point, something’s got to give…and it’s likely to crash down on you and me instead of atop those who most deserve it. The South African public needs to wake up before that happens!
War between DA & ANC = Public loses.