“Follow the money” is a modern adage that rings true. So does wondering if Knysna’s Municipal staff and politicians are worth the monies they earn in a town with a population of only 68 000 people. Knysna is not alone in its problems. If you are South African, there’s a good chance that you’re asking similar questions where you live.
I’ve questioned this several times, most recently with Over R1million Salaries for Knysna Municipal Staff and Do Knysna’s Politicians Deserve These Salaries? I have documented their false election promises and local government falsehoods, with particular mention of their excommunication of the public (that means “us”). My resulting answer is that they definitely do not deserve what they are being paid. Essentially, we are working to pay them for not working for us.
Discontent with the ANC was obvious when they lost the town to the DA in the 2011 municipal elections. The oddity was that Georlene Wolmarans became the DA mayor despite the ANC winning her ward. There was much expectancy and hope under DA leadership. After all, a fundamental part of the DA’s campaign had been to promise austerity, much needed after the stock market collapse had ravaged our tourist-based economy and emptied 80% of the industrial area.
Instead, from the outset there were worrying signs. There were the upgrades to the offices of the politicians. There was the expensive payoff (an amount they wouldn’t reveal) to Johnny Douglas, the Municipal Manager, to leave. There was the 7% increase in politicians’ salaries. And the municipal salary budget bloated by 50% over 3 years whilst R30 million was written off in public debt (with Lauren Waring, the next Municipal Manager, failing to give the public a breakdown of who benefited from that…and why).
Public discontent has grown steadily and 2013 seems to have been a watershed year for Knysna as many have begun to see that there’s less difference between the nature of political parties than they’d thought. The most powerful adage of all is that power corrupts.
As much as the belly of the public has rumbled, few have dared to speak out publicly. For the most part, i’ve been a lone sore thumb (and sometimes middle finger) in my protest for transparency but this year has found others, with deep roots in the Knysna community, asking questions too.
Ian Stewart, a chartered accountant, is one of these and he has written an important letter that everyone should read…and then ask what the hell is going on???