Is there a plot against Knysna? Are property developers and the Democratic Alliance involved? Why hasn’t there been punishment for municipal officials that made property worth R60-million vanish from its books? Is the town experiencing “shock doctrine” during the coronavirus lockdown? Will the baddies win, and will cover-up be complete if the town is placed under administration?
Knysna is at a crossroads so important and scary that I broke my silence and fears to contact people there. Getting to the bottom of this may not be possible for me alone but is the most important thing that locals need to do.
If it can happen to Knysna, it can happen to you wherever you are, especially if you live in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Consequently, I request that you help us by reading and sharing this post.
I hope that I provide some clarity, and instigate deep thought in the minds of locals during this crisis.
Knysna is a famous tourism destination and retirement location for the rich. It’s also well known for 10 years of non-stop corruption scandals and the assassination of the local ANC leader by the DA’s coalition partner.
The provincial government, national government and Chapter 9 organisations have taken extraordinary steps to protect those involved in maladministration and crime. This writer has been threatened yet no lawyer will represent me, nor will the Human Rights Commission which has stained it’s name with lies.
Knysna is abandoned by the institutions meant to protect her.
South Africa is an immensely corrupt country, and the three major parties, the ANC, DA and EFF, control the rollercoaster. It would appear that when corruption reaches the top leadership of a party, the opposition becomes their friend. It’s a buddy club the Public are excluded from.
MICHELE GRATZ DROPS A BOMB
Despite suffering having become the norm for Knysna’s residents, they entered an earthquake when the Municipal Manager, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and a DA Councillor quit one after the other during a Council Meeting on Zoom last week.
Today, Graeme Huddy, the Senior Manager of Information Communication Technology, subordinate to and friend of the CFO, quit too.
What makes this situation of national interest is that Acting Municipal Manager Michele Gratz radically called upon the Western Cape Provincial Government to put the town under administration. That would mean that the town loses control of itself, and the politicians go without pay whilst Council is suspended. Although that would appear to be a victory for a Public disgusted with corrupt politicians and officials, it soon aimed at a disturbing angle.
As she tendered her resignation, Gratz accused an external force of trying to control her and local government. Although unnamed, it was clear that she was referring to, and defaming, the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association.
Out of synchronisation with her claim was that the KRA had reported corruption to her regarding the CFO who’d quit with her. Additionally, and ironically, Gratz would never have been appointed if it wasn’t for the KRA filing complaint against her predecessor, Dr Sitembele Vatala, which forced his removal on Valentine’s Day.
Suspiciously, the councillor who quit, Peter Myers, attacked the KRA in a Facebook statement, despite them having long been a supporter of him. They’d been allies for over 4 years but began partying ways when he illegally fought for, and gained, a 20% increase for municipal directors.
IS THERE A PLOT AGAINST KNYSNA?
An avalanche of online propaganda began.
Despite no one having provided any evidence against the KRA, and the KRA defending itself with details of its complaints, facts were ignored for the sake of attack.
Simultaneously, messages began circulating, stating that Alan Winde, the Premier of the Western Cape and a high ranking DA leader, and who has a home in Knysna, had requested that people send him letters supporting Gatz to become the Administrator of Knysna. The same day, an online petition grew quicker than any I’ve seen for an individual in Knysna.
Good afternoon all. I have selected you to be on this group because I believe as long time residents, professionals and business owners of Knysna you have it’s best interest at heart. As you are all aware Dr Michelle Gratz resigned as acting Municipal Manger last week. Her unbelievable no BS stance and action in sorting out many management issues in Knysna has been remarkable. Our town is about to be put under Administration and we desperately need Dr Gratz to be nominated as the Administrator ( which she has agreed to do) Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has appealed to Knysna residents to email him regarding our support for her appointment as Knysna’s administrator. Alan is meeting with Cameron Dugmore, ANC representative in Western Cape, this afternoon to discuss the way forward for Knysna and needs to be able have evidence of support for Dr Gratz. I am one of many businesses owners and residents who have been approached to get support for Gratz. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a basic message of 1. We understand Knysna is bankrupt and is needing to go under Administration 2. We believe Dr Michelle Gratz is the correct person for the job as Administrator. If you know nothing about her Google her and get facts. We can no longer be apathetic about what happens to the Governance of our town. Under Administration Knysna would be able to reduce the bloated payroll by 500 jobs which, according to Dr Gratz’s latest internal municipal audit, are not functional or necessary. This and many more anomalies can be sorted out by Dr Gratz during Knysna’s time under Administration. Please act now and send Alan Winde your email. We can no longer be silent.”
Gratz brought up the topic of the town being placed under administration; she quits her job as Municipal Manager; smses, emails and posts call for her to become the Administrator, supposedly at the behest of the Premier; and administration is treated as if it’s certainty – even though 86,000 people can’t be treated like that over night.
The situation was suspicious. Even the non-cynical should’ve considered the possibility of it having been coordinated. It smacks of what activist and author Naomi Klein termed as “shock doctrine” (which is when governments take advantage of crises to achieve unpopular goals for power or profit).
However, logic isn’t a sleeping tablet for uneducated hysteria which probably reached a higher scream owing to the town’s bankruptcy before covid-19, and the collapse of the tourism-based economy thereafter.
When falling into a crack during an earthquake, if one sees, above, a foot hanging over the edge, one is likely to grab it even if its owner isn’t holding onto something. Instead of help, both land up falling, both die. I fear that’s how it is for Knysna.
As much as I sympathise, my fellow citizenry isn’t free of guilt because they should’ve learned something from the past decade of smelly, manipulative politics that served political and private interests against us. They should’ve learned from the awful things that have been done to try silence me.
I’m hoping that this blog will restore enough sanity so that questions are repeatedly asked until answered. Only then, can decisions be made.
MY QUERIES TO ‘ADMINISTRATOR’ MICHELE GRATZ
I emailed these questions to Michele Gratz and Christopher Bezuidenhout, the Head of Communications for the Knysna Municipality. I also sent it to the Deputy Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa (there is no Mayor) and several of his colleagues.
No one responded. Consequently, I’m posting the questions here. You’ll understand the situation better, and what’s at stake.
“Dr Michele Gratz, as the Acting Municipal Manager of Knysna Municipality, are you part of a Democratic Alliance (DA) plot to take over Knysna through the Western Cape provincial government they control?
Your resignation speech, on May 28 (via a zoomed Council meeting), was sensationalist and damaging to Knysna. It sparked a propaganda campaign that hasn’t let up. The goal is seemingly to discredit the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association (KRA). It diminished serious issues they presented to you which makes me also ask: Are you supporting property developers instead of the rights of the citizens of Knysna?
You may not have mentioned the KRA by name in your speech but it was blatantly obvious.
DA Councillor Peter Myers quit at the same meeting. Although the KRA had been his stupendously dumb supporter for 4 years, he betrayed them and supported you. Unsurprisingly, he also failed to use facts.
Myers is a chartered accountant and an advocate i.e. he’s not a fool, he acts with intention, for better or worse. He was previously the head of the Section 80 Finance Committee and, thereafter, if I recall correctly, a member of the portfolio committee. He oversaw the Financial department. Is there a possible link to CFO Mbulelo Memani also quitting? Myers was known as a strong defender of Memani despite the alleged crimes I will mention below.
You three quitting together was so spectacular that I cannot imagine it not being coordinated. Was it? If not, how are we to believe any of you?
It was disturbing cohesion because the KRA presented evidence against CFO Memani to you and the Council, yet you failed to investigate.
Instead, you created a media (mud) splash that was image conscious despite having no substance. The Knysna-Plett Herald published articles that, without insight, supported suspicion… and the Public took to social media in the manner of a car crash wherein everybody dies. It’s disturbing that there were also comments and posts by nefarious characters who’ve stood against decency and good governance for years, supporting the DA faction that originally dug the grave for Knysna.
I’m hoping that my first impression of you is incorrect. Will you be professional and repair the harm you’ve done? Will you deliver facts to prove that you’re honest and of good intention [unbeholden to a faction]?
My spats with the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association are well known, particularly because they refused to act on evidence I’d given them, and because I considered their allegiance with Myers to be a deal with the devil. Looking years back, none have ever addressed me correctly regards their ex-Chair I got rid by exposing his racism.
But at no point did I ignore them when they presented facts because information is valuable, and sufficient value shines light nearer truth. No matter my personal feelings, the evidence the Knysna Ratepayers Association (KRA) has continuously compiled (and argued with legal points) is commendable. Despite their failings, they’ve done more for justice for our town than you and your half a dozen predecessors have.
Consequently, because truth and effort matters, I temper my criticism of the KRA with applause. Regards the Knysna Municipality, no moderation is needed because for the past 10 years the Municipality and the politicians (ANC, ACDP, COPE and DA working together against our town) have consistently practiced maladministration and corruption, and refused transparency. The Knysna Municipality is a middle finger against decency and our Constitutional rights.
Regards the current calamity you”ve created, the KRA presented facts. You still haven’t. I need information from you so that I can compare and compose an article that will enlighten Knysna and National Government.
Please don’t be like your predecessors. Acknowledge the emergency situation. Be helpful and speedy.
1. Since you quit, why are you still in office? Provide proof from Council that they rejected your resignation as that’s surely the only legal reason for you to remain. You presented to Council so there has to be a Council resolution ordering Deputy Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa to engage in discussions with you (as he posted on the Municipality’s website on May 29).
2. What determines how long you’ll remain, and how long are the periods for each of those options?
3. Although MEC Local Government Anton Bredell is documented as interfering in Knysna on behalf of the DA’s interests, and tried to hand over the town’s future to property developers through the illegal ISDF, you’re now wanting his department to administer Knysna. Why are you acting against Knysna’s best interest?
4. Why are messages circulating via Whatsapp and email stating that Premier Alan Winde had requested that the senders gather letters of support for you so that the Western Cape Government can appoint you as Administrator once Knysna’s government is dissolved. Notably, some of those who’ve allegedly done so are related to property development. Furthermore, in context, this seems like a coordinated plan to undermine the rules of Government.
5. The message is happy in supporting the claim that you will cut 500 municipal jobs. Is that true, partly or fully. Describe why, and who should go.
6. I don’t know all the issues that the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association has presented to you but they mentioned several in a defensive post on May 29. Considering your attack on the organisation, please explain why you do not consider the following items important:
- 60-million rands worth of Public property was excluded by CFO Memani from the Annual Financial Statements. Your predecessor, Dr Sitembele Vatala, was implicated too. Essentially, the residents of Knysna were robbed of prime property in Buffalo Bay and Swartvlei.
- Vatala and Memani were also implicated in “a tender that should have been awarded to a local company, but was unlawfully awarded to a company from out of town that had tendered a price R3-million higher”.
- There’s mention of two more tender irregularities. They were unnamed. Please describe them.
7. Why, in the three and a half months since you appointment in February, did you not act on the above complaint? Although it should’ve been unnecessary, it’s notable that the same complaint was resubmitted to you. Why reject it on a technicality before it was to appear in the meeting wherein you resigned?
8. Your resignation speech stated that when you became Acting Municipal Manager, “expenditure was out of control… allegations had to be investigated… confidentiality has been breached… this municipality was completely undisciplined…” If you’re not a liar, explain why you never acted against CFO Memani and that, instead, he sits in an office next to yours, and the Deputy Mayor is currently in discussions with both of you, presumably to stay as that’s the only alternative to accepting your resignations.
9. What is the situation regarding the large property whereupon Premier Winde has a house? What are his intentions for another gated community in Belvidere?
10. Is any of the above reasons why it was essential to change the composition of the Knysna Planning Tribunal which considers developers’ plans? Explain why you refer to outside forces and threats instead of addressing the real concern that compromised individuals have been installed on the Tribunal. That was done at a meeting the Knysna Public couldn’t attend. Why have you not addressed those concerns as a Municipal Manager is expected to? Why, instead, did you attack the complainants?
11. If it is, or if it was, your intention to become the Administrator of a Knysna without an elected government, how are you not in conflict of interest, and in self-interest, after your actions calling for Administration, and the chaos you sparked?
12. You came from a DA municipality (Mosselbay) to a DA municipality. If you don’t become the Administrator of an overthrown Knysna, do you rule out working for a DA-led government again? Do they protect you?
13. A repeated problem is that Bredell jettison’s ‘leaders’ into the Municipality whilst they don’t reside in the town. It would seem logical that a resident is more likely to know and care about Knysna if they lived here. If you became Administrator, which would be for an extended period, would you relocate here?
14. My name and activism is well known in the Western Cape, particularly the Garden Route. You know who I am. And, as you said, your department is full of loose lips. Why do you have a poor opinion of me despite us having never communicated?
15. It’s expected that you’d have undertaken diligence in understanding Knysna before and when you took the job as its “commander-in-chief”. Considering its blackened history, why did you not contact me regards my allegations which have been more widely publicised than any other? Surely you would have to interact with me to stop the corruption I’ve reported?
You can choose silence which assists the Public in their opinion of you. Or you can attack me to try divert from my questions. Or you can stop the media circus. Make this week begin with clarity. Make Knysna’s first day of Winter warmer for the Public.
Please answer by midday.”
PREMIER ALAN WINDE
I also sent questions to Premier Winde and followed up with his Chief of Staff, Tammy de Decker (but I’ll leave that for later).
A lot can happen in one more day. Read ‘DA backs administration of Knysna, R71m loan to bankrupt town cancelled’
For new readers interested in the decade of corruption I mentioned, please read the ‘Easy Corruption Guide’. If that interests you, and you want to know how difficult it is to be an activist in a town controlled by the DA, you can download my book for free.
I still have to confirm or deny that this campaign for administration is linked to private interests involving a business chamber and property developers. As part of that allegedly involves the Public having been robbed of tens of millions in rates, and involves forces bigger than me, I need to spend more time on it, and be careful. I’ve got no resources, and have my own challenging situation to cope with. Truth requires scared people to step forward. If you know what I’m speaking of, please note that I’ll respect your anonymity so long as you’re not involved in the crime. Please contact me.