This is a continuation to ‘The Battle for Knysna’s Land Continues’ where the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal topic was introduced. You should read that before proceeding…
“It is deficient. In fact, there are no reasons given for the recommendations that the Municipal Manager makes… we’re here to recommend to the Council who we think would be appropriate to the Planning Tribunal…”
Those were the words of Councillor Peter Myers, the Chairperson of the Section 80 Committee for Planning, Infrastructure and Development. He was referring to the recommendations of those to be appointed to the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal (KMPT), a new body that would decide land applications.
It was immediately clear, in opposing Municipal Manager Grant Easton, that this was a different DA to that experience by Knysna most of the past 5 years.
It was also clear that this special meeting of this Section 80, the first that I can recall, was going to prove interesting because the only opposition member of the committee to appear was ANC Chief Whip Stephen de Vries. There are supposed to be 6 members, 3 from the ruling party and 3 from the opposition. Their decisions are then passed onto the Mayoral Committee of which each Section 80 head is a member.
Non-committee councillors are allowed to participate in discussions but not vote on issues. Councillor Ray Barrell was in attendance.
De Vries asked: “Does this committee have the power to make a recommendation?” and went on to state that it doesn’t.
Myers responded that, “All councillors at the Special Council Meeting agreed this matter be best handled at a special S80 meeting, which this is, and for this committee to apply itself to the matter.”
There was some chatter about alternates before De Vries excused himself, removing the quorum (the number of people needed) to vote on the matter. Immediately, the committee was handicapped.
It would seem that De Vries had intended to do so before the meeting started. Why else were the other opposition members not in attendance. Why else would committee member and ANC Councillor Wiseman Litoli be sitting a few metres from the door, eating a muffin?
It would seem that the ANC was deliberately delaying the meeting in the hope that they win the forthcoming local elections so that they can appoint their candidates who have been rumoured to be pro-Administration.
Myers suggested that they proceed as a workshop so that their time wasn’t wasted.
Barrell said that it would be prudent to not have someone such as Shaun Maree (Manager of Roads and Works) on the tribunal as that would exclude him from being consulted upon by the administration and councillors, actions that were guaranteed to occur.
Maree is invariably the person who comments on roads applications. As he will already have made his comments, he wouldn’t be able to discuss matters from scratch, as required, as a member of the Tribunal.
Myers suggested that Eben Philips be considered as a replacement.
Bevan Ellman, the Director of Corporate Services, said that Marlene Boyce, who had since occupied the Director of Planning position, should be excluded as she couldn’t both review, as a member of the Tribunal, and approve as a municipal official.
DA Deputy Esme Edge entered the room late. Notably, she has been dropped down the DA candidate list, to a position where she is unlikely to retain office. Although not a member of the S80 committee, she requested that since it was now a workshop that the members of the public be removed. Since only Susan Campbell and myself, activist Mike Hampton, were in attendance, she was obviously referring to us.
Myers disagreed with her: “We’re discussing exactly the same things we would have discussed at a S80 meeting.”
COPE Councillor Elrick van Aswegen, although not a member of the committee, was also present. He stated that only the Speaker could call for a workshop.
Myers stated the word “workshop” was used generically and that the continuation be better defined as the discussion.
Van Aswegen then stated that if it’s a discussion then he agreed with Edge that the public should be removed.
Councillor Louisa Hart stated that the discussion was halfway through so the point was moot. DA Councillor Beauty Beauty Tyokolo agreed we could stay.
Consequently, it was odd that 3 of the 4 committee members agreed we could stay but Myers bowed to Edge’s wishes when she repeated her request.
It was even odder when Van Aswegen left the Council Chambers, following us out. He undoubtedly would have shared our view of Litoli and his muffin. Considering what had just happened, they, along with Edge, seemed to be political muffin buddies.
If the DA believes that there’s a chance of their party losing the local elections, then they’re in a difficult position. How can they nominate and appoint new people to the Tribunal without a quorum? Can they, legally, disband a Section 80 Committee and reconstitute it? Or can a Special Mayoral Committee (MAYCO) meeting be called so as to override it?
The Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal is meant to be a better way of making land decisions. However, it can be abused to serve political or business interests instead of the public.
It’s disturbing that the meeting was sabotaged. As worrying is the public being booted out so that discussion could be secret.
Knysna remains heated as the 2016 Municipal Elections get closer.