This is my letter questioning Knysna Mayor Elrick Van Aswegen and Municipal Manager Louis Scheepers regarding the alleged theft of fire donation cash, staff suspensions, kickbacks and other fraud. I begin with the political battle background to today’s important Council Meeting.
Today will be the third Special Council Meeting in three weeks in my beautiful yet politically scarred town of Knysna. The crisis of morality and corruption there has become symbolic of DA dirty tricks and Public betrayal.
The DA deliberately became opposition, created a crisis, and then tried to put themselves into a position to fix it and claim glory, with the longer intention being winning the town without a coalition partner. So far, their plans have been foiled.
The fallout finds two ex-DA Council seats remaining vacant as the coronavirus has postponed by-elections until August. If the DA wins those back, it will be 10 versus 10 seats with the immoral ACDP Councillor Ian Uys as the 21st. He always votes for the DA… except last week when he seemingly defied Cape Town’s orders to vote with the ANC for a new Mayor (the post had been vacant since 2019 – local politics is that toxic).
The other parties are no better for they too have never punished the guilty, and have taken advantage of the DA’s failures. At different times, there are no parties or competing ideologies, just factions from all sides fighting a similarly composed opponent. These politicians are synonymous with opportunism.
Last week, the ANC succeeded with its nomination of COPE’s Elrick van Aswegen for Mayor. Unsurprisingly, Van Aswegen used to be a DA ally. At the same time, Knysna received its new Acting Municipal Manager, Dr. Louis Scheepers. His predecessors had the bad habit of aligning themselves with political factions (which bloodied their long-term career prospects).
The Knysna Municipality is a selfish building located in Clyde Street, opposite the shattered pavements on the corner of Pick ‘n Pay. Some councillors and municipal officials will be there at 11am for the meeting. Most will be at home. Last time, one was walking around somewhere, using her cellphone as participation which is why the meeting will be Zoomed via Youtube.
If they call for a break or a caucus meeting, or if it gets postponed to different hours, each session will become a new Video on Youtube. If you’re not dedicated enough to watch (or listen) live, it will take time before they upload for anytime viewing.
Out of a town of 86,000, approximately 50 people will be brave enough to watch. It’ s likely that the majority of those are municipal staff. I suspect that less than 20 of us are citizens. Hence blogs such as this…
THE THREAT OF ADMINISTRATION
There will be a third attempt to pass the annual budget. The DA has prevented that twice. If they do that today and next week, the Municipality will have failed service delivery, and given the DA another shot at having the Western Cape Government put our town under administration.
The problem is that the Western Cape Government is run by the DA. And the man in charge of Local Government is MEC Anton Bredell. He’s the infamous one I told you about who plotted to take over Oudtshoorn using administration as a weapon. He was clear in his purpose – he abused his government powers to try help the DA win votes in next year’s election. That recording is damning.
In these perilous corrupt times, we need honesty. We need anti-corruption fighters. Instead, we’ve got Mayor Ricky and Manager Louis. Louis will not respond to the crimes I’ve reported. Ricky has delayed me to a 30-minute call which will take place on 23 June. Considering the propaganda campaign run against me last time I met a Mayor, I don’t have high expectations, BUT I must try.
And so must Ricky and Louis. They must skip the Laurel and Hardy routine. They can choose Knysna today. I sent them this logical letter.
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS FOR TODAY’S COUNCIL MEETING
Mayor Elrick van Aswegen and Acting Municipal Manager Louis Scheepers. This is request for you to blow the smoky clouds out of Knysna. This is the third consecutive Council Meeting. If you do your job, there will be a fourth so that the annual budget can be passed with all facts in hand.
Stop using unnecessary (secret) green paper sessions to hide from us! You’re paid well. The least you can do is let us listen to you discussing important issues affecting our lives.
Green papers don’t apply to the questions below because they’re intentionally broad. But note that even when there are legitimate reasons, the topics can still be listed at the end of the white papers. When you don’t, you look like villains.
Will you be honest and transparent at the Council Meeting? Will you set an example as our new representative leaders?
KICKBACKS AND SUSPENSIONS
- It’s unacceptable that Municipal Manager Sitembile Vatala’s paid suspension is so easily extended from it’s current three months to an estimated five – that’s approximately R600,000 in salary. All delays so far must be explained, and someone must accept responsibility for the seemingly deliberate mistake that they never gave Vatala sufficient time to respond last time, thus extending the process.
- What was the date the disciplinary process began against CFO Mbulelo Memani? How does that compare to the dates of the complaint from the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association (KRA), and the queries, before his suspension, that Vatala sent Memani?
- What process has been followed since Vatala’s February inquiries to CFO Memani? Why has it been detained or slowed when AMM Vatala’s wasn’t? Explain Memani’s preferential treatment.
- Is it true that ex-Councillor Peter Myers, ex-AMM Michele Gratz and Deputy Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa protected Memani? Has there been investigation? If not, why not? Was anyone else involved?
- Does Memani’s disciplinary relate to the KRA’s complaint, Vatala’s queries, or both. If not both, why?
- Is Director Corporate Services Phumla Makoma implicated?
- Deputy Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa faces kickback allegations. Ask Tsengwa if he’ll voluntarily explain himself to Council. If there’s simple explanation, why hasn’t he already stepped forward?
- Why hasn’t the ANC demanded process regards Tsengwa? Why hasn’t COPE? Is it because the ANC and COPE’s plan to make Elrick van Aswegen the Mayor needed Tsengwa? If so, that would make it a bribe.
- Ask Tsengwa if there’s truth to the rumour that the ANC REC has received kickbacks? There’s no evidence that I’m aware of but the rumour is persistent, and needs to be squashed or investigated.
- What is the status of suspended staff? I’m unsure of what’s happening with Director Planning Marlene Boyce but something is. Explain how these things suddenly happened as Gratz was leaving. On whose complaint did Gratz act e.g. CFO or others? Why have these staff been treated this way, instantaneously, yet Memani has walked for four months?
- Is it true that the Great Knysna Fire emergency account was emptied recently? Approximately R4-million. Where’s the money? Why was it transferred? What was it used for? Has Memani been plugging holes of his creation? Who else knew and did they act to fix the situation?
- What has been spent, on what projects, and who scored, if it is true that CFO Memani spent part of the R71-million DBSA loan in advance? From what projects did he take from, and why? Which contractors benefited?
- What is the status of the DBSA loan?
- Memani must be reprimanded for his belligerent attitude and stated intention to illegally keep funds Knysna should have returned i.e. INEP and MIG. The silence of Council makes you all complicit. What is the value?
- I use this example again because you haven’t answered: If I overcharged you by mistake on your purchase of a vehicle, and we later discovered the error, would you expect me to pay you back? Expecting your answer to be obvious, why is CFO Mbulelo Memani being allowed to use that argument so that he doesn’t have to refund electricity consumers who were charged more than the NERSA rate?
- As the NERSA situation is based only on a sample, what has Knysna Municipality done to audit all consumers?
- Memani must explained why he told the Council that my NERSA ideas were half-baked? Is it normal to belittle a citizen in Public without an explanation. The fact is that I sent a query to him and you. Why do I receive insult instead of being answered? He must make a Public apology. If he won’t, then you should do it for him.
It’s important that all senior financial staff attend the Council Meeting to assist Memani answer truthfully and abundantly. Alternatively, they must replace him.
If you, as the leaders of the Administration and the Council, fail to act honestly and transparently, and continue to represent those who wrong us I will escalate my protest.
We need you to do better!
Pretty town: loveknysna.com
THE BIGGER QUESTION: WILL THE ATTEMPTED OVERTHROW OF OUR TOWN BE BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF NATIONAL AUTHORITIES?