Kannaland’s potholed municipal governance, row over Keith Jordaan appointment play out in Parliament
The Little Karoo municipality is known for its port and acclaimed cheese factory. However, the municipality has made headlines due to critical governance issues, including a controversial new acting municipal manager, unstable political leadership, and problems with service delivery.
The appointment of Keith Jordaan as the acting municipal manager of the Kannaland municipality has made local headlines — the latest in a municipality that has endured heightened media scrutiny in recent months. This week, these issues came to a head in Parliament, where questions were asked about support, service delivery, unstable leadership, and a row about its acting municipal manager, who had been dismissed from the George municipality.
Kannaland is about 400km from Cape Town and comprises the towns of Zoar, Calitzdorp and Ladismith.
At the same time that questions have been raised about Jordaan’s temporary appointment, Parliament heard of a litany of problems in the municipality, including a poor audit finding, potholes that need fixing, ageing water infrastructure and only one out of four senior management positions having been filled.
Western Cape MEC for Local Government Anton Bredell said he did not know if the Kannaland municipality had considered Jordaan’s dismissal before offering him his new job.
Jordaan was appointed as acting municipal manager on 21 October on a three-month contract. Bredell did say, however, that he wrote to the municipality on 11 November “that in light of Mr Jordaan’s dismissal at George Municipality he may be prohibited from being re-appointed in a Municipality for a period of 10 years”. The information is published in a question posed by ANC MPP Cameron Dugmore to Bredell which was published on the provincial parliament’s website.
Jordaan’s Kannaland appointment was initially flagged by Dugmore, who wrote to the Public Protector, alleging interference from DA Western Cape leader Tertuis Simmers in the appointment of Jordaan.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “ANC Western Cape heads to Public Protector in latest Kannaland municipal drama”
Jordaan’s history in George
Jordaan was dismissed from the George Municipality after he was found guilty of three of four charges against him related to an ill-fated investment deal with Old Mutual.
According to Bredell, it was alleged that Jordaan had contravened municipal investment regulations in that Old Mutual was not a registered bank, which meant the George Municipality could not invest money with it. Jordaan faced disciplinary action and sanctions. He was found guilty of gross negligence on three charges and acquitted on one charge.
“As a result of the findings on Charges 1, 2, and 3, the Arbitrator made an award that the dismissal of Mr Keith Jordaan as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of George Municipality was both substantively and procedurally fair and ordered that Mr Jordaan’s claim of alleged unfair dismissal is dismissed,” read Bredell’s response.
In April 2019, citing ‘VBS-style corruption’, the Good party and its leader Patricia de Lille took this matter to the Public Protector. In February 2022, Jordaan was named in the Public Protector’s report. According to the report, Jordaan did not comment on the notice issued by the Public Protector’s office about the investigation.
According to the report, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declined to prosecute anyone involved in the deal, including Jordaan.
When Daily Maverick approached Jordaan for comment, he referred to a letter he had sent to George municipal manager Dr Michelle Gatz.
In the letter, Jordaan said the George council “injudiciously terminated my employment and inflicted undeserved damage on my person and my character and my career after serving the municipality with distinction”. Jordaan would further say in the letter: “falsely accused, I had been cleared by the NPA”.
The Jordaan letter signed off with: “be advised that a review of this scandalous charge, process, finding, and termination is launched”.
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Kannaland municipality’s political leadership has changed hands several times since the November 2021 municipal elections, when convicted rapist Jeffrey Donson was elected as mayor. Donson was ousted as mayor in January 2022, and replaced by council speaker Nicolaas Valentyn (ANC). By October 2022, News24 reported Donson donned the mayoral chain again following several motions of no confidence in the ANC leadership.
Jordaan and Kannaland municipality appear before Parliament
On Wednesday, 23 November, the municipality’s representatives — including Jordaan and Donson — appeared before Parliament’s oversight committee on cooperative governance to discuss the municipality’s state of affairs. Present at the virtual meeting were representatives from the municipality, the Garden Route District Municipality, the Western Cape provincial government (Finance and Local Government), the Auditor-General and the South African Local Government Association (Salga), and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Throughout the meeting, several municipal issues surfaced: unstable leadership with three governance changes since the November 2021 municipal election, the municipality’s qualified audit outcome and a R32.4-million debt to power utility Eskom.
Several issues raised
During the meeting in Parliament, the Western Cape provincial Treasury highlighted several service delivery problems, including:
- Most of the municipal fleet is in a poor state and unroadworthy;
- High levels of standby and overtime claims;
- Pothole repairs, general road maintenance and tools, plant, and equipment all need to be addressed;
- Aged water infrastructure leading to pressure problems in the networks, leaks and pipe bursts, water losses, faulty pump valves and meters;
- Vandalism is a major problem, as is a lack of proper record-keeping and administration within the technical services directorate;
- Three out of four senior manager posts are vacant, including that of municipal manager, and executive managers for infrastructure, finances and community service; and
- A senior municipal director is alleged not to have the required qualifications, which is being looked into.
Jordaan said since his appointment, he had been running an action plan that looked at issues such as Eskom debt management, service delivery, legal action, staff appointments, organisational structures, staff discipline, adjustment budgets and a land audit. He said the municipality owed creditors R69-million, but had R852,000 in its bank account. The municipality was looking for a chief financial officer and finalising its 2021/2022 audited financial statements.
The municipality was also working on its image, according to Jordaan, who added, “it seems the municipality is constantly in the news for the wrong reasons”.
‘This is a mess’ — and questions over Jordaan’s appointment
During a question and answer session, committee member and DA’s constituency head for Kannaland Eleanore Bouw-Spies said the municipality had received financial support several times and questioned how the municipality could be poor.
“For the longest time, this municipality has received all that and more,” she said. “This is a mess,” she told the committee.
Gordon Gcinikhaya Mpumza (ANC) said it was “disheartening” that leaders in the municipality played a role in its instability. He asked about consequence management and the appointment of Jordaan — and what remedial action was to be taken for the appointment. The ANC’s Bheki Hadebe was one of two other MPs who questioned the appointment.
Donson replied: “Council took a decision to get a legal opinion about the municipal manager” and added that the council was busy putting systems in place to turn Kannaland around. Donson also questioned if there was support, as stated, by various structures and said an investigation would be conducted accordingly.
Donson said he had written to the National Treasury about underfunding of their budgets and also the AG’s office about the municipality’s financials, but had received no responses. “They don’t want to talk to me,” he said.
Hadebe asked committee chairperson Fikile Xasa if he could ask Donson to expand on the information about Jordaan’s appointment.
Donson said after Bredell sent a letter about the appointment, the council decided to get a legal opinion and was waiting for the response. DM