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‘Official state visit’ to watch Rugby World Cup final kicks up Theewaterskloof Municipality funding spat

‘Official state visit’ to watch Rugby World Cup final kicks up Theewaterskloof Municipality funding spat
Illustrative image: Theewaterskloof Municipality speaker Derick Appel and Theewaterskloof Municipality deputy mayor John Michels (Photos: Facebook | David Rogers / Getty Images | Xplorio | Rawpixel | Shiraaz Mohamed)

Two senior Theewaterskloof Municipality officials are headed to the Rugby World Cup final on what the council has dubbed an ‘official state visit’, but questions have been raised about the real reason behind the trip – and who is footing the bill.

Daily Maverick has seen a Theewaterskloof Municipality document stating that deputy mayor John Michels and speaker Derick Appel were to travel to France and the UK this week on an “official state visit” to watch the Springboks take on the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup final in Paris and to meet embassy officials. 

The 17 October letter, addressed to Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) director-general Zane Dangor, from Theewaterskloof Municipality’s municipal manager Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, reveals the plan of Michels and Appel to travel to France and the UK between 23 and 31 October and to be in Paris for the Rugby World Cup final.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup News Hub

“As part of the international visit, a partnership engagement will be taking place with the Leicester Tigers Rugby on Wednesday, 25 October 2023, at its facility situated at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium in Leicester (United Kingdom), to engage and discuss sports development programmes and partnership arrangements,” read the correspondence on an official Theewaterskloof Municipality letterhead, seen by Daily Maverick.

theewaterskloof michels

Theewaterskloof Municipality Deputy Mayor John Michels at Cape Town International Airport on Monday, 23 October 2023. (Photo: Facebook)

theewaterskloof appel

Theewaterskloof Municipality speaker Derick Appel at Cape Town International Airport on Monday, 23 October 2023. (Photo: Facebook)

“The delegation [will] kindly request a meeting and pay a courtesy visit to the Embassy in the United Kingdom and France and meet with the relevant officials to discuss trade and investment.”

“Given the official travel to both the United Kingdom and France it would [be] appreciated if a note verbale can be provided,” it continues.

Theewaterskloof Local Municipality, in the Overberg region of the Western Cape, is led by a coalition of the ANC, Patriotic Alliance and Good party.

Appel, who is also the treasurer for the Western Cape ANC, is facing charges of allegedly assaulting three law enforcement officers during centenary celebrations in Riviersonderend in September, News24 reported

Michels was reportedly facing charges in an internal investigation by the Good party in March this year, following sexual harassment allegations.

The local municipality includes the towns of Greyton, Grabouw, Genadendal, Villiersdorp, Tesselaarsdal, Riviersonderend, Caledon and Botrivier.

Who’s footing the bill?

In a statement on Tuesday evening, the DA in Theewaterskloof called for “immediate answers” from the PA, ANC and Good coalition on the deputy mayor and speaker’s plans to attend the Rugby World Cup final “under the guise of an official state visit”.

“If the official visits are an excuse to watch the Rugby World Cup, it is a complete disgrace that executives from a municipality like Theewaterskloof, find it appropriate to go watch rugby matches and meet with a rugby club, all while services continue to crumble under [their] corrupt and incapable leadership.

“The DA in Theewaterskloof calls on the PA-led coalition to explain the said letter and to give clarity on who will be footing the bill,” said Isaac Sileku, the DA’s constituency head in Theewaterskloof.

In response to questions from Daily Maverick, Theewaterskloof Municipality spokesperson Hugo Geldenhuys said on Wednesday that funding for the trip did not come from municipal coffers, nor did the municipality have a hand in arranging the trip.

He was, however, unable to confirm who did fund the trip. 

“The narrative that the speaker and deputy mayor were ‘sent’ to France by the municipality is wrong. The municipality did not pay for any of their expenses and also did not send them,” said Geldenhuys.

“They decided that whilst they’re in France, they would, on their own accord, visit embassies and potential project partners to investigate and forge opportunities for Theewaterskloof Municipality and the people of this municipal area. They will also discuss sporting opportunities for the youths of Theewaterskloof with rugby and other roleplayers.

“As they intend to have talks with government organs abroad, the municipal manager wrote a letter to a relevant organ of state to request diplomatic support and recognition for the speaker and deputy mayor,” he continued.

Geldenhuys failed to confirm who paid for the trip, and in a WhatsApp message, referred Daily Maverick back to Michels and Appel for comment.

“I cannot comment on payment for the trip as the municipality is not paying. About their personal arrangements and payments, you should talk to them [Michels and Appel],” said Geldenhuys.

Curiously, both Michels and Appel claimed to be paying for the “official state visit” themselves.

In response to our questions, Appel initially referred Daily Maverick to Geldenhuys for comment. However, in response to a follow-up request for comment, he later replied: “My trip is paid [for] by myself!”

Michels responded to questions from Daily Maverick simply with a thumbs-up emoji. However, in a post on a Grabouw community news group on Facebook, the deputy mayor maintained that Theewaterskloof did not pay for his trip – but he does not say who did.

“I want to put it on record that Theewaterskloof doesn’t give out a cent for my trip overseas. The project that I am doing as deputy mayor to continue sports ties with abroad is to further the dreams of our youth. This is my project and I am doing it as [deputy] mayor. IT DOESN’T COST [THEEWATERSKLOOF] A CENT.

“The reason for the letter going around is to help me get a visa because my first visa application was unsuccessful,” he said in the Facebook post.

This contradicts what the municipality claims was the reason for the letter.

‘Official clout’

According to Geldenhuys, the letter was to request “some official clout so that they [Michels and Appel] can talk on behalf of Theewaterskloof Municipality – so that is why they wanted some diplomatic support”.

In response to a question from Daily Maverick on why a letter was needed from Theewaterskloof municipal manager Solomons-Johannes if the municipality was not funding the visit, and Michels and Appel were travelling of their own accord, Geldenhuys said: “Whilst they’re there, they are going to endeavour to talk to local municipalities there to see if they can forge partnerships between us and them. So what these guys are actually doing now – as far as I can gather – is that they, without us paying for anything, are going to try and create opportunities between us and those municipalities and also sport codes…

“But that I have very little information on because this is not an official municipal thing. But because they are going to try and see municipalities, they wanted some sort of support… that would help them to act as government entities. So that we can benefit but we don’t pay for anything. So that is basically all I can tell you.”

Daily Maverick contacted Solomons-Johannes for comment, but he referred us to Geldenhuys.

Geldenhuys also confirmed that no decision had been taken by the council on the trip.

“There was no council decision about this and the municipality is not paying for it. What I am trying to tell you is that I do not know whether there’s an entity that pays for it. I do not know that. All there is that I know is that we did not make the arrangements and we’re not paying for it,” he said.

On our question of why Appel is part of this “official” delegation representing the municipality overseas, given the criminal charges against him, Geldenhuys replied: “The speaker of Theewaterskloof appeared in court, but the allegations or alleged charges were not read. The speaker was not requested to [plead]. The case was postponed for further investigations.”

Speaking to Daily Maverick on Wednesday afternoon, the DA’s Sileku questioned where Appel and Michels got the mandate to engage on behalf of the municipality if the trip had not been approved by the council.

“If they want to represent the council, then they [must] have a mandate. Firstly, the speaker does not have a mandate to go and speak on behalf of council; the deputy mayor does not have a mandate because he is deputy mayor and he does not have delegated powers. How is he going to engage with people if that delegated power was not given to him by the council?” he said.

“They need to prove to the public that Theewaterskloof never paid for the trip and that it’s not an official state visit, and they need to explain why that letter was written to Dirco. What was the purpose of that letter written to Dirco? Why did they see it as a need to write to Dirco, if Theewaterskloof is not involved?”

Daily Maverick sent questions to Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela on Tuesday, but no response was received by the time of publication. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

    Our country is being run by people with a sub 25 IQ and morals to match.

  • Denise Smit says:

    The same story where ever the ANC has it’s hand, aided by Good and the PA. They should be ashamed . So brazen in their actions. Denise Smit

  • Barry Messenger says:

    If it walks like a duck…

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Payback for their mischief-making that included fires in municipal properties?

  • Gerrie Pretorius says:

    Is this retaliation for the DA visit (To the USA by Alan Winde) which apparently cost R1.4m a while back?

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Seems to me like more than a little conjecture here …most likely truth is that neither can spell retaliation.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Gerrie, it may well be. I think the point is that Winde’s trip was meticulously organised and planned, with a proper, urgent purpose – the Premier of a key province in South Africa to try to convince power brokers in Washington not to scrap our AGOA benefits, which would have major impacts on employment and production in South Africa. This trip has no proper agenda, no planning, vague allusions to possible meetings – everything about it is amateurish, ill conceived and doomed to fail: it is, in a nutshell, the ANC, PA and Good writ large.

  • Lisa nel says:

    If there were any shred of subtlety, there would be no dark humour.

  • Nick Griffon says:

    It’s really simply.
    Make them pay for it themselves

    • Nicol Mentz says:

      I absolutely agree, these people have no shame! Pay for yourself if you want to go watch the rugby and stop fleecing the taxpayers. Absolute disgrace!

  • Steve Davidson says:

    I’d love to hear what Brett Herron from the GOOD (sic) party has to say about his chommies.

  • Graham Nelson says:

    The SBB coalition Steal Break & Burn.

  • David K says:

    Well investigated, thanks DM. Keep us posted on the expense claim submissions please, if possible 🙂

  • Ludovici DIVES says:

    A lie leads a man from a grove into a jungle.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    They are so brazen, they don’t even disguise the fact that they are corrupt.

  • bigbad jon says:

    This is over the top reporting. No proof of municipal/govt. sponsorship for the trip (yet), the individuals say they paid for it themselves. Reason for the letter to DIRCO was given -difficulty getting visas. The only warning sign is that the ANC is somehow involved (Appel is a member). We’ll see.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      John, it’s really not tricky to get a visa to the UK or France for a short stay. The first visa application was rejected – that’s pretty unusual, in my experience. Why was it rejected? Probably no proof of hotels, flights, or funds would be my guess – that’s usually the reason, bar being excluded for a previous overstay or having a criminal record. See my comment below as well about the BS they’re spouting in terms of meetings and the logistics around it.

    • Mike Walwyn says:

      If they did payfor this themselves, then ll they need to do is produce the proof, which is very easy to do. Then all the snpeculatio would go away and the journalists could apologise. But I rather think it’s not like that!

    • Peter Dexter says:

      I agree with Dee Bee. The refusal of the visa by the UK or France should be a red flag. But having DIRCO or any other arm of government issue any document (which may be authentic, but possibly fraudulent due to lack of veracity) to secure the visas, impairs our international relations ….. AGAIN.

    • William Kelly says:

      If they’re going in their private capacity then no problem and they don’t need DIRCO. Else why do they need DIRCO? They’re either lying to us, or lying to the visa peeps.

  • Hilarious! I was threatened and verbally assaulted by Mr.Michels. I laid a charge of assault against him and my document miraculously “disappeared”. Nice one TWK.

  • Grant Hudson says:

    Seems to me to be an attempt to get a visa under the guise of an ‘official visit’.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    What kind of voters do we have in this cosplay democracy? The depths of dumb you need to plumb for a silly grift like this to fly is hard to fathom.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    I’ve done many visits to Europe, and you don’t simply pitch up at a municipality waving a piece of paper to ‘forge partnerships’. There is a process, with protocols, meeting schedules, timing, agendas and everything else to negotiate beforehand. Do they think they’ll just saunter into the Mayor of London’s office and have an impromptu meeting? Bullsh*t. Even an exploratory visit requires planning from both sides, because, in local governments that actually work, officials aren’t just sitting around waiting for the great and mighty of Theewaterskloof to step through the door. Also, they left on the 23rd – that’s a Monday, so arriving in London on Tuesday morning, clearing customs, getting to the hotel they’re staying at, having a shower and change and possibly brunch/lunch before they hit the road on their trade and investment drive – leaving Tuesday afternoon (maybe a visit to SA Embassy), then three days, Wednesday to Friday for ‘official business’ including a day in Leicester (about 2 hours by train each way, then to the club, do their thing, back to the station and back to London), then the best part of a day travelling to France, either by train on the Eurostar (you still have to get to St Pancras in time to board in time, 2.5 hours journey, off to your hotel the other side etc etc. Three days for a two country visit on official business with no set meetings a minimum of a day of internal travel and these clots want us to believe they’re not there for a jolly?

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Just ask for proof of payment. Somebody paid.

  • kisha.flack says:

    Whilst I appreciate that these gentlemen may be paying for their own trip, I cannot but help wonder what the immigration of France and the UK would say if they found out that, having had personal visas rejected, they are now using political letters under false pretenses to gain access to a foreign land. And how Dirco feel about someone using the Department name under false narratives?

  • Stefan Lukas says:

    Sounds like a Leon Schuster movie!

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    And that area of The Cape is so beautiful! How can such clunkers have any power to ruin things?

  • Penny Philip says:

    They are going to ‘try’ to speak to some municipalities. Given the very high costs of flying to & traveling around the UK & France, shouldn’t they have meetings already set up?

  • Jaine Hannath says:

    Geldenhys says it all; “But because they are going to TRY and see municipalities, they wanted some sort of support… that would help them to ACT as government entities”. Just prior to this comment he uses the term ENDEAVOR. Try/Endeavor sounds like a no show to me. And I love the phrase “act as government entities” -because both of the men’s actions to date portray them as charlatans. They are doing this trip for themselves, not for the poor sods of Theeswater who’s misplaced votes gave these characters the Golden Globe of office.

  • Peter Corbett says:

    A number of questions arise. First how did they obtain tickets at this late stage for a booked out final. Who obtained the tickets, how, and at what cost, and who paid? Where (specific hotels) are they staying in Paris and the UK etc, at what cost, and who paid? What is the total cost per person for this jaunt including travel costs, accommodation, match tickets, and subsistence? A rough guess would be R100,000 each. Do either or both individuals have the liquid financial resources to fund this? If they have a “sponsor” who is it? The last question is the most important as it could point to influence peddling.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      I don’t believe R100k each would touch sides as it fell down the hole.

      • Michael Thomlinson says:

        These 2 jokers have gone to watch the rugby, no doubt about that. That is OK if they are paying but I very much doubt that. Tickets start at around R20K although I am sure they will have booked better seats at around R50-100K each. Price tag could be as high as R 300 – 400K each, for the trip and I bet you that money has somehow been smuggled out of tax/rate payer’s money. I just hope that the local voters take note although they are probably not worried as they don’t pay any rates and taxes.

  • Eulalie Spamer says:

    These two clowns probably didn’t pay for this junket nor did the near bankrupt Theewaterskloof Municipality. But somewhere along the procurement chain you will find the benefactor. Since this is a “State Visit” these jokers are now elevated to the title of “Statesmen”.

  • Talitha Finkay says:

    My Rates doubled in Greyton, and they can’t explain how my home doubled in value, services are shocking, and costs are hight, since the coalition municipality, and now Rugby in Paris. The costs for a ticket to the final is R12,000, so i this why my rates went up! Its shocking! BRING THE DA BACK, at least they don’t steal!

  • Confucious Says says:

    They want to see if they can find enough cheese to fill the dam at home! Seems legit…

  • El Dodger Dodger says:

    Thank you, DM, once again for shining a light on our despicable political D”elite”. Quite apart from the frankly unbelievable denials of corrupt funding here, I find the quite staggering lack of leadership not on display here most disappointing. The area is a local disaster zone after recent storms obliterated vital infrastructure, fixed property, farming assets and informal settlements on a scale not easliy compared to past events.
    But this Bulls#it story is touted instead.
    Since they are in Paris and seem to be part of a despicable ruling class, perhaps we can put in a diplomatic request to renovate one of the many Guillotines gathering dust in The City of Light?

  • Maureen Bassill says:

    My friend lives in Villiersdorp and her home was flooded during the recent storms due to blocked rainwater drains.

    I’m sure that she’ll be delighted that these gentlemen are using her hard earned rates for a rugby jolly.

  • Change is good sa says:

    ANC, PA and Good Party – A view on next years election when corrupt parties get together.
    Come on citizens of Theewaterskloof, you can do better. The emergence of the PA is nothing more than a convicted criminal pulling the wool over your eyes, whilst trying to get close to the public purse.
    The arrogance of the 2 officials thinking they can get away with this. Good on you DM for having this story break. May these 2 be suspended when they return. I wonder what Patricia is going to do with her errant civil servant if GOOD is the name of her game.

  • It’s clear that wrongdoing is in our fibre as a society . This wrongdoing is spearheaded by the very people whom we entrust to manage the country

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The voters are comfortable with stealing and elect people who reflect their values. Blaming politicians for turning our country into a clowns toilet bowl would be funny if it weren’t so stupid.

  • Jan Malan says:

    It astounds me how brazenly crooked the ANC is.

    • Enver Klein says:

      Nothing astounds me any longer, let’s just plain Apartheid, 21 years later, Apartheid is to blame for the worsening of poverty, while a “fat cat” can buy a Rolls Royce with money to be used for the poor …
      Apartheid must be the most endearing problem, 50 years down the line, Apartheid will still be the reason why there’s much more “fat cats” and still much worse poverty.

  • michael bridgens says:

    the Appel doesn’t fall far from the tree

  • The gravy train is way more efficient than Prasa.

  • Pieter Koelewyn says:

    ‘Daar is altyd twee KANTE van n storie!!
    ie There will always be two side to a story!’HaHa

  • Alan Downing says:

    A local resident told me that ZAR300 million has gone missing from the municipal treasury.

  • Ritey roo roo says:

    where are all the 56 comments?

  • Jack Blom says:

    Is it possible that a contractor with a tender at TWK who paid for the trip?

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