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Knysna’s ANC-led municipal coalition’s hiring spree might end up in court

Knysna’s ANC-led municipal coalition’s hiring spree might end up in court
Knysna Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa. (Photo: Facebook)

The Knysna municipality is defending a batch of new appointments to its governing coalition. Now, the DA is looking at legal options.

The Knysna municipality is defending its choices following the announcement of new political appointments to the offices of the mayor, speaker and deputy mayor. While this matter has been ongoing in the municipality since mid-September, this week the DA threatened legal action.

According to the Knysna-Plett Herald, during a council sitting in September, questions were raised about potential hires of six political office bearers including a chief of staff and a public relations officer in the mayor’s office, a political adviser, a head of office and a personal assistant for the deputy mayor. The speaker’s office will also have a head of office.

Alarm bells were raised by the DA following a council sitting on 16 September, where the appointments were resolved by the council. 

The Knysna council has had a new political leadership since mid-August when the DA was ousted during a special council sitting. Following motions of no confidence, a coalition of the DA and the Knysna Independent Movement lost the positions of mayor, deputy mayor, speaker and council whip. The DA-led coalition lost its grip on the 21-seat council to a coalition of the ANC, Patriotic Alliance (PA) and the Plaaslike Besorgde Inwoners (PBI) during a special council session.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “DA-led alliance loses power in Knysna council to ANC-led coalition

In September, when these appointments were announced, the DA raised concerns: Knysna Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa said the positions were vacant and due process would be followed.

In a statement this week, DA constituency head for Knysna, Dion George, said these appointments had been made “without following due process at an unbudgeted cost of R3-million per year”. 

Various municipal sources sent Daily Maverick lists of who had been appointed to these six posts within the municipality, but by Thursday afternoon, the municipality was not forthcoming with the names of the individuals and what their exact roles would be. These lists included a former mayor and individuals linked to political parties in the governing ANC/PA/PBI coalition.

While the municipality did not confirm when these people had begun their jobs, mayor Tsengwa confirmed that they had been hired on six-month contracts.

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In responses via email, Tsengwa said due process had been followed in the appointment of the political office bearers. The appointments, he said, “are standard political appointments which similarly can be found in neighbouring municipalities… the capacitation of these offices ensures that the commitment made to improve service delivery and development will be carried through for the benefit of all residents in the Greater Knysna area”.

The DA’s Dion George did not agree: “Neither the Council’s recruitment process nor the selection process were followed.. the Coalition of Corruption hasn’t even tried to hide the nepotism and crony patronage that they expect the hardworking citizens of Knysna to fund”.

George also said the salary bill would place Knysna “in deficit and onto the slippery slope to bankruptcy”. He said the money allocated to these appointments meant that “temporary and casual staff vacancies aimed at employing currently unemployed youth, in particular during the high season, would remain unfilled”.

Asked where the money for the appointments was coming from, the mayor said: “These positions are supported by the 2022/2023 budget.”

George said the DA would approach the courts for immediate relief, “given the political process has now been corrupted beyond recovery”.

“The newly created posts would be laughable if the jobs created for cadres did not come at a significant and unnecessary cost for our residents,” said the Knysna Independent Movement, previously in a coalition with the DA.

The municipality has also advertised the positions of municipal manager and chief financial officer, which have not been filled on a permanent basis.

The municipal manager’s post has not been filled since the resignation of Dr Sitembele Vatala in September 2021, who had been on precautionary suspension since February 2020. The municipality has had acting managers since then.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Former Knysna CFO Mbulelo Memani bags new Bitou job despite incomplete disciplinary hearing and trail of complaints

The municipality has also not had a permanent chief financial officer since the resignation of the controversial Mbulelo Memani in October 2020.  DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Municipalities/ electorates need to find ways to sideline politicians. They’re not good for democracy.

  • Alan Salmon says:

    Within two months of being in office the ANC are spending public money on themselves again !
    But it comes down to the voters – why do they keep supporting these thieves? We will never progress until voters get past the emotional/tribal/cultural loyalty barrier that keeps them voting for the ANC.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Not to mention herdocracy. A word I invented which unlike democracy where everybody thinks for themselves and votes for what they personally believe in, they prefer to follow the leader of their herd even if its straight into the lions den. They do whatever the rest of the herd does without question or thought. Herd mentality is instinctive and does not support democracy, so you end up with herdocracy.

      • Dave Reynell says:

        Spot on ! If you can find Sam Walter Foss’s poem Calf-path, the words of this humerous, but sadly true, poem support your comment. Google it. It’s worth a read.

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