No councillor should be free of scrutiny. They are human. They will make mistakes. They are allowed to. But after doing so they need to own them and make up for them. A politician without a mistake is a liar. My goal is to find the truth… and discover whether they have sufficient strength to lead us.
Regards Eleanore Bouw-Spies, Knysna’s ex-ANC Mayor who is now the DA candidate for the Ward 5 by-election to be held on July 2 2014, there hasn’t been a single question posed to her that promotes journalistic integrity. How can the tough questions not be asked of someone who has the potential of earning 5 years worth of salary paid by the taxpayer?
After she declined to talk to me, my next stop was at the door of the opposition where I garnered an interview with Ralph Stander who is the highest-ranking ANC member in Knysna. I took with my questions about the rumours that I’d heard about Eleonor for years. Our conversation contained potentially explosive info, some on record, some not. To ensure that I was covered, and got it correct, I asked Ralph if he’d repeat his answers via email. The version I got was tamer than in person but, even considering that he’s opposition, some red flags are raised which tie in with other things that I’ve yet blog about.
I don’t want biased people to ever have a leg to stand on by calling my blog biased. When Eleonor Bouw grants me an interview, I will post the link to it on this same page (as well as Facebook etc.).
Mike: What is and was your relationship with Eleanore Bouw-Spies?
Ralph Stander: She’s an acquaintance and [now an] opposition party member.
Mike: Eleanore spent 11 years in official service to the ANC and Knysna. From 2007-2011 she was our Mayor. She went from such a high position to nothing politically. What has never been explained to the public was what her fallout with the ANC leadership was over?
Ralph Stander: I don’t know about any fallout. I think she used to be the blue-eyed girl of the previous leadership… but the same can’t be said about the ordinary members on the ground. They were the people who weren’t recognised by her… and they were the people who chose not to vote for her again.
Mike: Despite being dropped as mayoral candidate, surely she was still on the ANC’s Councillor candidate list for the 2011 Municipal elections?
Ralph Stander: She was a candidate but resigned.
Mike: But, before that, she was moved much higher up the list. How did that happen?
Ralph Stander: Provincial and National leadership have the right to change the list in line with ANC constitution and rules & regulations.
Mike: I heard she went from bottom of the list to the #2 position, essentially Deputy Mayor if the ANC won Knysna again, but then suddenly quit. What do you think led to her radical turnaround?
Ralph Stander: I’m not sure. Heard many stories about it but I don’t want to speculate.
Mike: Is there any truth to the rumour that she was undermining the ANC in Hornlee and Concordia before she quit? If so, how?
Ralph Stander: I don’t understand this question.
Mike: Allegedly, part of the fallout with the ANC was because she was telling people in her ward not to vote for the ANC whilst she was ANC Mayor, just before the elections. Is there any truth to this?
Ralph Stander: That was definitely the case. There are a few comrades who gave affidavits to that effect. It was a case when she didn’t make in in ANC processes – she became very angry and was determined to show the ANC. She and other comrades indeed showed the ANC by supporting the Independent candidate in Ward 8. That didn’t only make the ANC lose the ward but also the municipality and Eden municipality. The worst thing for any organisation is when it’s destroyed from the inside. Look at COPE.
Mike: I’ve heard rumours that she was secretly working for the DA. In fact, one source claimed that a deal was made between some ANC, DA and municipal staff in Oudtshoorn and Knysna. Is any of this true? Was anyone else involved?
Ralph Stander: Under the previous regional leadership of which she was part of there was some kind of agreement with the DA at these two municipalities. I’m still trying to get the details of the agreement, but it’s protected by all cost. I know part of the agreement was to keep Ricky van Aswegen and The Knysna Community Forum [Ricky is now a councillor for COPE] out of running the municipality. I, and many comrades on the ground, were totally against that because how can you be in partnership with your arch enemy. From what I can observe is that agreement is still very much alive for certain comrades. I must, however, categorically say that under the present leadership there is no agreement with the DA and will never again be.
Mike: How is anybody to trust what you say? It was common political knowledge that you and Eleonor had a poor relationship. Although both you and her told me in 2013 that you had buried the hatchet, how is the public to believe that when they read your answers? After all, these accusations, if true, are quite damning and some will surely say that you have political motive to drag her down a notch after she announced, this week, her candidacy for the DA, your opposition?
Ralph Stander: Yes, it’s public knowledge that we were not friends and that she wanted to silence me by taking me to court… but as Christian I’m taught to love your neighbour as yourself. Also, all that I’m going to do is answer all your questions as truthfully as possible but without slandering anybody.
Mike: Back in 2010, you were the CEO of Proudly Knysna which would run events in Hornlee as the Coloured tokenism (my belief) part of the Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival. There was a conflict between you and Eleonor Bouw/Stephen de Vries (currently Chief Whip for the Knysna ANC) which was reported in the newspapers. What happened?
Ralph Stander: I really don’t want to go there but, yes, it was reported in various local and national newspapers so I guess it’s in the public domain. I laid charges against the two of them for breaking the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by offering money, positions and other favours to deal and undermine me with other Proudly Knysna (Pk) committee members. They managed to totally destabilise PK but didn’t manage to have their way with me. The tokenism part I don’t understand.
Not directly relevant to this interview but, to clarify, by “tokenism” I meant that the Pick ‘n Pay Oyster Festival gives a little cash for events to the poorer areas so that they can pretend in the media that the festival is for all communities of Knysna.
Ralph Stander: That’s why I’m no longer involved in the Oyster Festival. It’s clear that they, under the leadership of Nicci is not interested in poor areas.
Mike: The Changes organisation took the Oyster business away from you. Who was involved in Changes and why did you consider their motive to be political?
Ralph Stander: Changes was established by Eleanor while she was still the Mayor and it was part of the destabilization of PK. When Eleanor was no longer a councillor, she had a good home to walk into. She made sure that lots of funds and resources were pumped into it while she was still in council.
Mike: You reported Eleonor to the MEC for Local Government. What did he do and why?
Ralph Stander: Yes but nothing came of it. I didn’t even get an acknowledgement. I couldn’t understand why nothing was done seeing that she was then a senior opposition leader. It makes one wonder.
Mike: Eleonor sued you for R200,000. What was the result of the case?
Ralph: Yes. That was part of a scare tactic for reporting the matter to the powers and for questioning her love for attention from the white community and the lack of attention in the Coloured and African communities… but those who know me knows that I don’t scare easily.
Mike: So nothing happened? She dropped the case?
Ralph Stander: The case just came to a halt. My attorney advised me that we could get a cost order against her but how will that assist in building bridges. I believe in letting bygones be bygones.
Mike: For the past year, I’ve been saying that there are different factions in the Knysna DA and ANC. Your answers prove the ANC part. I’ve also said that I believe that some things in Knysna Municipality don’t add up unless some ANC, DA and municipal staff are working together. I don’t mean that in a general sense, which is essential, but secretly for self-benefit. Do you believe this possible or true? If so, justify your answer.
Ralph Stander: I believe there are agents all over and the sooner they are exposed the better. No organisation can be allowed to be destroyed from within.
Mike: When did Eleonore first approach the DA?
Ralph Stander: Lol. Why do you ask me?
Mike: Because what happens in politics is often known first by politicians. We’re a small town and the political parties are often working together in the same building? Are you denying that she was approached by the DA? Or that she approached them?
Ralph Stander: I’ve been told she approached them already in 2011. Remember, there was also that agreement with the DA. She’s officially DA now and at least everyone knows now where she stands. My big concern is those agents who are still inside the ANC.
Mike: The ANC was accused of giving business to pals in Plettenberg Bay whilst Eleonor was the ANC Mayor of Knysna. How did Eleonor’s then-husband, Rowan Spies, come from nowhere to suddenly be a partner in Moby Dick’s (with the previous tenant having been given only 30 days notice)?
I don’t know.
Mike: Stephen de Vries is a Board member of Knysna Tourism. He, along with the DA councillors on the Board, have refused to explain the financial crisis that occurred or provide me with the information requested. It makes no sense when the opposition isn’t acting as the opposition. I consider this collusion against the public interest. Although you may not be a Board member, I consider you guilty too as you have been aware of it for years and done nothing of significance to bring the matter to daylight or justice. You are a separate issue to this line of questioning but I want my position to be clear i.e. I favour no side, I simply want the public to be told the truth in all matters. As you are higher up the ANC totem poll, I consider you to be more guilty. But, pursuant to the Eleonor Bouw/Stephen de Vries line of questioning is that Stephen has known Eleanore Bouw for a long time. She was even, momentarily, added to the Tourism Board. What is/was his relationship with her?
Ralph Stander: Oh, she was? I’m not surprised by that. She always had a cosy relationship with the powers that be at Knysna Tourism. All ANC members should be accountable?
You never answered what her relationship with Stephen de Vries was and is?
Ralph Stander: You must ask them but I believe they are tight. They were together on the previous Regional leadership [Southern Cape Regional Committee for the ANC).
Mike: Is it true that Eleonor Bouw (then Bouw-Spies), at the end of her reign as Mayor, was after Shaun van Eck’s job as CEO of Knysna Tourism?
Ralph Stander: There were stories like that and because I don’t believe in rumours. I asked her about the matter. She must still reply to my queries.
Mike: Rumours are dangerous but they can arrive in different ways. They prompted you to ask her, after all? How did you hear about it?
Ralph Stander: There are many things that one learns unofficially but you can never just base your information on that. You also can’t just ignore or dismiss because “Waar n rokie trek, brand ‘n vuurtjie”. I believe in verification, in making sure of my facts. When I heard Eleanor moved over to the DA, I asked her whether it was true or not. That’s how I do things.
Mike: When did you ask her about her move to the DA and what was her response?
Ralph Stander: That was before it was in the newspapers.
Mike: It’s important that the public understand all sides. The difference between truth and the motive for telling the truth is a very grey line. Are you in a faction opposite to the one Stephen is?
Ralph Stander: I’m not part of a faction. I’m a loyal, tried and tested member of the ANC. There are however comrades in the ANC that might not be so loyal or whose loyalty is with themselves first.
Mike: What are the odds of you running as a councillor candidate in the 2016 municipal elections?
Ralph Stander: The odds? I don’t know. I’m a loyal ANC member that will serve the ANC in whatsoever capacity they see fit. The ANC decides and it’s not up to me or anyone to say ‘I want this or that’. It’s not like in the DA where you apply to become a public representative. With us, the people decide, the branches of the ANC.