The answer is “yes” to Knysna-Plett Herald’s front-page headline last week, “Is Knysna Imploding?”
Following the suspension of Knysna Municipal Manager Sitembele Vatala, two more employees have been suspended. They are Avitha Jagaysor (Senior Manager Financial Management Services) and Bryan Campher (Project Management Unit Officer for Technical Services).
Did they do wrong or is this revenge? That’s the question being asked by fellow staff members working in the same toxic environment.
I cannot determine their guilt without the facts but there’s bigger context to consider, and an important moral question.
MUNICIPAL MANAGER GRATZ IMMORALLY CHOSE A SIDE
Municipal Manager Vatala officially requested that Mbulelo Memani, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), respond to a long list of maladministration and corruption allegations. Instead of following due process that would require independent investigation and the results speedily brought to Council, Vatala was, instead, suspended.
Vatala also has serious questions to answer but it would seem that one allegedly corrupt side has more power than the other. It would also seem that Gratz, Vatala’s replacement and Acting Municipal Manager (AMM), helped sway that balance (which, incidentally or coincidentally, could keep her receiving a big salary).
It’s disturbing that both the ANC and the DA support Gratz but from different angles.
Maybe the ANC’s reason is because Vatala’s allegations were also against Aubrey Tsengwa, the ANC’s Deputy Mayor. The DA’s angle is that they need Gratz as part of their plan to illegally takeover the Municipality – the DA has their own corruption to protect.
THE DA IS SHOCKING KNYSNA INTO SUBMISSION
The dark timing of the latest suspensions is questionable.
Last week, AMM Gratz and the DA, led by councillor Michelle Wasserman, failed to table a motion demanding a quasi-administration wherein councillors would voluntarily give up their powers. It was absurd, and would obviously be blocked, but that was likely part of the plan. It gave Wasserman the opportunity to release a propaganda statement claiming that the ANC had been unreasonable, Knysna must go under administration of the Western Cape Government (which is controlled by the DA), and that Gratz must be put in charge – “ANC chooses self over Knysna by dismissing financially beneficial item in Council.”
Knysna is being shocked into submission. The worse things get, the better for the DA because their Cape Town bosses can take control of the town through a process called administration (the real not the quasi kind). Administration is needed but a biased version would be damaging. The DA would look like the good guys as they expose the dirty laundry of their enemies, whilst hiding their own corruption.
And then the administration period would end just before the 2021 Local Government elections whereat DA councillor’s involved in cover-up would be reelected (political parties choose who we vote for, so loyalty to their party is more important than our democracy).
As part of the strategy to make her the Administrator of a Knysna after the Western Cape Government has taken control, Acting Municipal Manager Michele Gratz had to resign. She did so with spectacular effect, unleashing a conspiracy theory against the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association (KRA) who had laid complaint against Vatala but with evidence implicating CFO Memani.
The KRA has refused to make their February complaint Public despite it being their best defense against the coordinated propaganda campaign against them. More importantly, it would help citizens bring their own minds closer to the truth.
This Thursday, the same day as the next Special Council Meeting, and only two days after she suspended Jagaysor, Gratz will be leaving. But that doesn’t guarantee that she will be gone for good.
Notably the DA’s plan has only been viable with the continuous support from Ian Uys, the ACDP councillor. I will address this immoral man at a later stage.
THE SUSPENDED STAFF
Avitha Jagaysor and Bryan Campher were suspended. My question was: “Did they do wrong or is this revenge?”
The possibility of staff being pawns in a revenge game of corruption is possible. My blogs the past week make that likely but cannot stand alone. There are two more options.
- One or both leaked information to knowingly support a political or business faction. If so, that would be a morally grey area without knowing whether the outside forces intentions were good or bad. But, legally, their employer has the fair right to punish them.
- One or both leaked information to fight the overwhelming corruption in the Knysna Municipality. If that were true, I’d applaud them for being the only decent people in that building.
Crucial information is needed. What was the information and who did they allegedly leak it to? What did that person or group do with it? Is there reliable evidence of the leak? And why would they be immediately suspended whilst CFO Memani, who has more serious charges pending, is left alone. Why is Gratz delivering double-standards?
Notably, Bryan Campher is the local leader of the IMATU union. Considering their rival unions’s protest last week, IMATU’s is expected too. The DA’s sabotage of the annual budget, and the propaganda campaign for Gratz that says she’ll cut 500 jobs, are, to understate, unpopular.
Notably, “Avitha Jagaysor” is a divorcee who was previously known as Avitha Sunkhar. She was momentarily famous when she did what no one else had done before which was make Council go through the budget line by line in 2017. That saved R40-million. Summarily, she was suspended, a pawn in the political game at that time. After approximately three years, she won her return to work. For part of that time there was no CFO. Grant Easton, the ex-CFO who became Municipal Manager, was responsible for her suspension. He faced serious charges as result of a complaint by the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association. Even after he resigned and emigrated, Jagaysor sat at home, earning approximately R1-million the first year, for doing nothing. But the situation was rumoured to have played a part in debiting her marriage.
CFO Mbulelo Memani is the direct boss of Jagaysor. It’s possible that if he were suspended, she’d become the acting CFO.
URGENT CITIZEN JOURNALISM
My intention was to release, this afternoon, a follow-up to ‘The Plot Against Knysna?’. That would’ve focused on understanding the big picture. Considering related and continuing implosive stories, it’s likely that I’ll miss my deadline. As a Special Council meeting will be held tomorrow, and this crisis requires urgency, I will inform the Public of new info they need to know today.
Consequently, on this topic, I haven’t waited for response from Jagaysor and Campher but, in all likelihood, they won’t as that would jeopardise their jobs.
Furthermore, the Knysna Municipality has erected a wall against all my questions regarding corruption. That exposes Gratz’s recent call for the Public to report corruption as a lie. Provincial capture is as real as state capture.
Read the next post: ‘Fraud allegations against Knysna ANC Deputy Mayor and Chief Financial Officer’