It’ll be already apparent to readers of this article that the battle for control of Oudtshoorn is a vicious one. The town is led by a coalition government of the ANC (11 members), the NPP (1 member) and ICOSA (1 member), and an opposition coalition of the DA (11 members) and Cope (1 member) – essentially, that’s 13 for the ANC versus 12 for the DA.
Even for South African politics, what happened next was astounding not only in action and drama but in media bias.
On May 31 2013, a normal meeting of the Oudtshoorn Municipal Council was held. Therein, it was discovered that 5 ANC members had defected to the DA. They were Hendrik Ruiters, Pieter Luiters, Hendrik Botha, Jurie Harmse and Jeremy Goliath. Speaker John Stoffels adjourned the meeting. The ANC ended party membership of the 5 rebels and the Municipal Manager announced 5 vacancies. 2 were filled by PR councillors whilst 3 awaited by-elections.
It was duly announced to the media that the DA had taken control of Oudtshoorn and photos of the ex-ANC councillors donning blue shirts were circulated. Theuns Botha, leader of the DA in the Western Cape, was credited as the mastermind of the ‘coup’. ANC Western Cape local government spokesperson, Pierre Uys, claimed the involvement of Premier Helen Zille and MEC Anton Bredell too.
Ben van Wyk, who would soon become the alleged signatory to the Nel Settlement, was named as the new Mayor of Oudtshoorn.
The DA victory was short-lived as the High Court declared the takeover illegal and “slapped the DA, Cope as well as 5 ANC defectors separately and jointly with a cost order that amounts to an estimated R100 000 per head.” That, being bigger news than the floor-crossing itself, should have been front page news but was instead ignored by most media. As to who will eventually control Oudtshoorn remains undecided as now, 10 months later, the ANC still rules whilst court action continues.
In the legal forensic report submitted by advocates Bruce Morrison and Elmien Vermeulen in August 2013, they concluded that “there is prima facie evidence that fraud or attempted fraud was committed by Nel, Barrow and Van Wyk on the basis of misrepresentations against the Oudtshoorn Municipality and/or the or municipal rate-payers. We conclude that Barrow, Nel and Van Wyk had a common purpose and were acting in the furtherance of common goal to commit the fraud or attempted fraud. We conclude that there has been actual and/or potential prejudice in the form of unnecessary legal costs, potential legal costs, administrative costs and potential administrative costs being incurred… and, in addition, reputational damage to the Oudtshoorn Municipality and or the town’s leadership.
We recommend that serious consideration be given to reporting this matter to the head of the Commercial Branch of the South African Police in George for further investigation and the necessary steps to be taken to prosecute the perpetrators in question. In addition, we recommend that Barrow’s conduct as detailed in this report, be reported to the Cape Law Society.”
The Oudtshoorn municipal council has since endorsed the Speaker, John Stoffel’s report and recommendation to suspend Nel and Van Wyk’s voting rights pending the decision of Anton Bredell, the Western Cape Provincial Chairperson, (who has so far refused to act on the report).
Helen Zille distanced herself from the situation with the statement: “There was no resolution, by any competent authority either in the Oudtshoorn municipality or in the Democratic Alliance, for anyone representing either party to conclude a “Deed of Settlement” in respect of the matter PA Nel vs Oudtshoorn Municipality…..the so-called “Deed of Settlement is of no force and effect. It is not justified or condoned in any way by the Democratic Alliance. The DA would NOT allow a private legal Bill to be passed on to ratepayers.” On the surface, that sounds good but what it is is Zille protecting herself, not the public. If the citizens of Oudtshoorn were foremost in her conscience, she’d have long ago chosen to admit fix the DA’s wrongs with truth and subsequent action against the misdeeds local politicians.
Instead, the reality is that she has been informed and thus becomes part of the scandalous Nel Settlement cover-up. She isn’t alone. This insidiousness creeps through the higher echelons of the DA, infecting the likes of Anton Bredell, James Selfe (Fedex Chair) and several more junior leaders the likes of Debbie Schafer (Federal Law Commission) who “investigated” the Nel Settlement a long time ago yet have done nothing about it. When (if) they do, it will only be because they have been forced to do so.
In the midst of this mess, DA Councillor Peter Roberts was witness to Nel approaching, on several occasions, the DA caucus to foot the legal bills. Roberts opposed this, stating it was illegal. Consequently, Roberts was the only exclusion to the resolution passed by the DA for Van Wyk to conclude the settlement agreement with Nel. As important is the fact that this was a DA decision and that whether they were in power or not becomes moot considering that the decision was not proposed or passed in a Council meeting.
Last week, Roberts filed an affidavit in the Western Cape High Court that defies the version of events told by his colleagues regards the Nel Settlement. For his integrity in opposing corruption, he was suspended by the DA. You would think, in lieu of Zille’s statement, that she’d be supporting Roberts. That she isn’t, reminds us that politics is rarely what it seems or says.
As reported by the O!O, the suspension wasn’t the first time the DA has acted in this immoral manner. In 2007, before it would become supreme irony, DA councillor Pierre Nel was suspended by his party for opposing “a questionable deal with Patricia de Lille’s then Independent Democrats” that had the “ID’s Jeffrey Swartbooi embroiled, at the time, in an alleged R50m scam.” Nel won his appeal and was reinstated.
In Knysna, the DA (including Helen Zille and MEC Alan Winde) were well informed of the financial disaster approaching Knysna Tourism and the negative role that their councillors on the Board of Directors were playing by intentionally ignoring the Municipal Finance Management Act. Instead, they chose to cover it up and, in doing so, promoted mismanagement which cost the town a great deal of money. The Eden Corruption line they installed never responded regards this writer’s complaints about DA crimes. If Zille’s rules only apply to the ANC then that’s campaigning not sincerity. It’s hypocrisy.
In the Western Cape, the public are often as guilty, blindly choosing a side instead of choosing right over wrong (regardless of which political party is involved). In doing so, the public not only encourages the devil in the DA but becomes victims of themselves.
The DA continually claims the moral ground regards corruption when, as it is for other parties such as the ANC, it’s politics at all costs, power before the public, and double standards depending on what is to be gained or lost. Either way, the public is the ultimate loser.
PS: Read the Mail & Guardian’s article on ANC In-Fighting in Oudtshoorn that led to ANC defections to the DA.