This morning’s Special Council Meeting in Knysna was a pleasant surprise and further indication that a political wind was blowing in different directions as municipal elections draw nearer. Councillor Michelle Wasserman’s new hair style was very sexy-
-it was cute… but the failed attempt to appoint Grant Easton, the Financial Director, as Municipal Manager was much more important.
Back in September 2014, when Municipal Manager Lauren Waring announced her retirement, i wrote that, “They then shut us out, taking the public item of who would be Acting Municipal Manager into a closed door session. In all likelihood, it will be Lauren’s cohort-in-arms, Grant Easton, the Financial Director.”
I was correct.
My fear that our secretive local government would continue almost happened.. and may still.
Today’s agenda included the recommendation by the executive Mayor Georlene Wolmarans that, “Mr. G.S. Easton be appointed the Municipal Manager from 1 April 2015”. As the meeting was only advertised yesterday, it was remarkable that, at the start of the meeting, Wolmarans called for a 30-minute caucus [secret meeting]. It was unusual not only because it meant something was afoot but because that is an extraordinary length of time for such a thing. Since i can’t imagine the opposition being granted it without any indication why, it was wrong of Speaker Eleonor Spies to allow it… but she, seemingly (and incorrectly if true), granted it in a heartbeat. A Speaker is supposed to be impartial but she, as a DA member, must have been informed why before the meeting started and, thus, acted like a DA member instead. Everyone else was in the dark.
Whilst i grabbed the opportunity for a cup of coffee outside chambers, i noticed Jaco Londt, the DA’s Manager for the Eastern Region, leave the toilet in the direction of the DA’s offices – something was definitely happening…
…so it was no surprise that, on the DA councillors return, Wolmarans withdrew her own recommendation. She vaguely explained that the full report by the Western Province [i.e. MEC Anton Bredell] into the ISDF [the 30-year plan for Knysna] was an important document that she had not received yet.
COPE’s Elrick van Aswegen responded with: “I’m totally confused. I don’t want to be a confused councillor.”
ANC Chief Whip Stephen de Vries, who was on the panel, along with Wolmarans, that had selected Easton, asked, “What has the ISDF got to do with the appointment of the Municipal Manager?”
Wolmarans was, again, extremely vague when she responded with, “There is a lot of supply chain management issues we need to get out of the way.”
She never bothered to explain herself… and didn’t have to when the DA’s majority backed her withdrawal of her recommendation.
But i can try explain…
Firstly, it is highly likely that the ISDF was an excuse and not the actual reason. She knew yesterday that she didn’t have the report plus she’d had the facts of the matter for approximately 2 years yet deliberately chosen not to investigate but rather push it through. Nevertheless, Wolmarans usage of the ISDF is a major boon to ISDF naysayers such as myself – she just gave the matter gravity which can be added to a court case if one is required.
The real reason has two other options:
- At the last moment, sufficient DA councillors had changed their mind and outvoted those who wanted to approve Easton’s questionable appointment [in our BEE world, his Scottish white skin had somehow come out on top].
- They had been instructed not to from higher up (which would explain why Londt, Helen Zille’s man-on-the-ground, was in the building).
What is certain is that we, the public, are still not getting the whole truth (or any truth) from the DA.
The decision on Municipal Manager was postponed until March 26.
In the next blog, i share controversies and explain why Grant Easton should not get the top job. There’s a lot of BIG reasons!