ANC Western Cape heads to Public Protector in latest Kannaland municipal drama
In the latest in a series of dramas surrounding the Kannaland Municipality, the ANC has called for a meeting with the Public Protector, claiming that DA Western Cape interim leader Tertuis Simmers was directly interfering in the municipality’s affairs.
Cameron Dugmore, leader of the official opposition in the Western Cape legislature, has lodged a formal complaint against MEC for Infrastructure Tertuis Simmers over alleged interference in the possible appointment of an official to the Kannaland Local Municipality.
The municipality has repeatedly made headlines because of its political instability since the 2021 municipal elections.
During a media briefing at the ANC’s offices in the Western Cape legislature on Thursday, Dugmore said the party would lay a complaint with the Office of the Public Protector (PP) over what it alleged was Simmers’ push for the appointment of Keith Jordaan as municipal manager of Kannaland.
“At the beginning of this month, the ANC received reliable information that the DA, and specifically under its provincial leader Tertuis Simmers, was pushing for… Keith Jordaan to be appointed to the position of acting municipal manager in Kannaland — this while there is already a competent acting municipal manager in place,” said Dugmore.
“The information that the ANC has in its possession clearly outlines the involvement of MEC Tertuis Simmers in the Kannaland municipal matter,” said the veteran politician.
Jordaan was named in a 2022 Public Protector report into the George Municipality over an ill-fated R350-million investment with Old Mutual by a councillor in the municipality. The report stemmed from a complaint laid by Good party leader Patricia de Lille in 2019.
In a letter to the PP, Dugmore wrote: “This complaint relates to the interference by MEC Simmers in the appointment of the dismissed former CFO of the George Municipality to the role of the Municipal Manager of Kannaland.
“The evidence in our possession indicates the direct involvement of MEC Simmers where he is trying to enforce the appointment of Mr Keith Jordaan. It is clear from the evidence in our possession that MEC Simmers in his capacity as DA provincial chairperson was issuing an instruction to the role players linked to the Kannaland Municipality to appoint someone he approves of…
“It is not only grossly inappropriate for a functionary of a political party to interfere in the appointment of a senior official at a municipal level but it is clearly against the Code of Ethics for Executive Members.”
In the letter, Dugmore said he was available to provide further information to the PP’s office about the complaint and would seek an appointment to provide the ANC’s evidence. The ANC wants this meeting within two weeks, read the letter.
The MEC told Daily Maverick he welcomed any investigation.
“I welcome any investigation by the Public Protector as I have nothing to hide. What I will not be doing is give oxygen to some desperate political witch-hunt,” said Simmers, who is the DA Western Cape’s interim leader and not provincial chairperson as Dugmore stated in the letter.
“The DA stands for the rule of law, and investigations into irregularities, such as the myriad of investigations into ANC corruption and mismanagement we see every single day, should be made when required,” he added.
This is the latest in a string of dramas surrounding the Kannaland Local Municipality, located about 400km from Cape Town. The municipality, which falls under the Garden Route District Municipality, comprises the towns of Zoar, Calitzdorp and Ladismith.
At the end of the 2021 municipal elections, there was no outright winner in the seven-seat council.
A coalition of the ANC, Independent Civic Organisation of SA (Icosa) and Kannaland Independent Party (KIP) then governed, with Icosa leader Jeffrey Donson taking the mayoral chain.
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However, the coalition came under criticism from political parties and gender-based violence activists for electing Donson as mayor, as he had been convicted for the rape of a 15-year-old girl. Barely two months after Donson’s election, the ANC confirmed it would move into the opposition benches in the municipality.
In January 2022, in a motion of no confidence, all the Icosa councillors were removed from their positions: Donson as mayor, along with deputy mayor Werner Meshoa and Hyrin Ruiters, the council’s representative in the Garden Route District Municipality.
It would appear that the ANC and DA worked together to remove the councillors. ANC councillors Nicolaas Valentyn and Leoni Stuurman became mayor and deputy mayor, respectively. KIP councillor Rodge Albertus, who instituted the motion of no confidence, became council Speaker. DA councillor Aletha Steenkamp became the council’s representative to the district municipality.
At the same time, the ANC stated it had not given permission to its councillors to join a new coalition. The councillors were suspended from the party and their membership was terminated, but this was set aside in a series of court judgments.
Dugmore confirmed during the media briefing on Thursday that the issues with the ANC councillors were an “ongoing process”.
Kannaland is one of three municipalities in the province highlighted by the Auditor-General as having submitted its financial statements late — something that Kannaland has done twice in the past four years. The municipality received a qualified audit outcome, making it one of only seven municipalities in the Western Cape not to have received a clean audit.
In August, the council announced it had decided to expel the three Icosa councillors — Donson, Meshoa and Ruiters — and sent its decision to the MEC for local government, Anton Bredell.
While this was happening, KIP said that it had expelled Albertus from the party for, among other reasons, employing his wife in the municipality, the Oudtshoorn Courant reported in July.
Bredell confirmed to Daily Maverick that the department was conducting a “diagnostic assessment of the local governance, service delivery, and financial challenges that the municipality is facing”.
The aim of the process was to highlight key problem areas where the province could provide support measures.
“These measures will include assistance with the review of policies and bylaws, the provision of training to councillors and officials, bolstering financial controls, and service delivery-related assistance such as providing engineering experts to assist with and advise on the municipality’s water, waste, and electricity infrastructure.” DM