MEC Anton Bredell turns up heat beneath Theewaterskloof officials in Rugby World Cup ‘official state visit’ probe
Theewaterskloof Municipality deputy mayor John Michels and speaker Derick Appel allegedly used public funds for their trip, which they claim to have paid for themselves.
MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning in the Western Cape, Anton Bredell has begun efforts to probe the allegations surrounding the trip taken last month by two senior Theewaterskloof Municipality officials to the Rugby World Cup Final.
“We have started the process to determine if a Section 106 investigation into the matter can be launched… The legislative framework requires that before the Minister can initiate an investigation he is required to afford the municipality with an opportunity to comment on the allegations and then conduct an assessment to determine if a provincial investigation is necessary,” said Bredell’s spokesperson, Wouter Kriel.
Section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act provides the MEC for local government with the power to request information, and if necessary designate a person or team to investigate if the MEC is aware of allegations of maladministration, fraud or corruption in a municipality.
Kriel told Daily Maverick that Bredell had requested answers from Theewaterskloof municipality regarding the visit, but the municipality had declined to respond to the MEC.
Theewaterskloof Municipality speaker Derick Appel at Cape Town International Airport on Monday, 23 October 2023. (Photo: Facebook)
Theewaterskloof Municipality deputy mayor John Michels and speaker Derick Appel travelled to France and the UK from 23 to 31 October to be in Paris for the Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday, 28 October, Daily Maverick reported.
The trip was dubbed as an “official state visit” in a letter to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) director-general Zane Dangor, from the municipality’s municipal manager Wilfred Solomons-Johannes.
In the letter, Solomons-Johannes had requested a note verbale be provided by Dirco for the duo, who would also pay a “courtesy visit to the Embassy in the UK and France and meet with the relevant officials to discuss the trade and investment.”
Questions were soon raised by the DA’s constituency head in Theewaterskloof, Isaac Sileku concerning the real reason behind the trip and who was footing the bill.
In a statement, Sileku had called for “immediate answers” from the PA, ANC and Good coalition on the deputy mayor and speakers jaunt to the Rugby World Cup “under the guise of an official state visit”.
Theewaterskloof Municipality, in the Overberg region of the Western Cape, is led by a coalition of the ANC, Patriotic Alliance and Good party. The local municipality includes the towns of Greyton, Grabouw, Genadendal, Villiersdorp, Tesselaarsdal, Riviersonderend, Caledon and Botrivier.
It has been plagued by financial woes for years; made worse by the recent Heritage Day weekend storm which wreaked havoc in the Overberg region of the Western Cape.
On 25 October, Sileku lodged a complaint with the provincial treasury to investigate whether public funds were used for the trip.
In the letter of complaint, seen by Daily Maverick, Sileku said if the official visit was indeed being used “as a guise to attend the Rugby World Cup, it raises serious ethical and financial concerns.”
“Should you believe the National Treasury should investigate this matter, to determine whether this proposed excursion genuinely serves the interests of the people of Theewaterskloof, you are welcome to escalate it to the relevant officials.
“The citizens of Theewaterskloof deserve clear and honest explanations regarding this trip and its implications for their municipality,” he said.
In a response to Sileku’s letter, Western Cape Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC, Mireille Wenger referred his request for an investigation to Bredell’s office.
“The Municipal Finance Management Act does not provide powers of investigation. However, the Provincial Treasury will be monitoring the municipality’s monthly financial reports for any indicators of financial mismanagement or any possible violations of the cost containment regulations,” said Wenger in a letter, dated 2 November.
Speaking to Daily Maverick about Bredell’s move to probe the matter, Kriel said: “The issue is about who funded the trip, and if it was the municipality, if financial regulations were followed.”
“There are questions about whether this was an official trip or not,” Sileku told Daily Maverick. “If we can get that information then we need to determine if there were any costs incurred by the municipality, in terms of visa application fees etc.”
Both Michels and Appel claimed to have paid for the trip themselves.
Appel, who is also the treasurer for the Western Cape ANC, is currently facing a criminal case, for which he is appearing in court, after allegedly assaulting three law enforcement officers during centenary celebrations in Riviersonderend in September, News24 reported. As for Michels, he was reportedly facing charges in an internal investigation by the Good party in March this year, following sexual harassment allegations.
When contacted, the municipality declined to comment at this time.
On Friday, the Good party’s Brett Heron slammed Bredell for his intentions to investigate allegations “made by members of his party relating to recent overseas travel” by the Theewaterskloof deputy mayor, a member of GOOD, and the municipality’s speaker.
“Bredell’s hypocrisy is staggering.
“The mayor of Theewaterskloof has already publicly confirmed that no municipal funds were used to pay for their travel, but the gossip is too sexy for Bredell to resist with an election around the corner,” said Herron.
He added that if it was true that Bredell intended to investigate the matter on the basis that the Municipality refused to answer questions posed by him, “then he is abusing his office for party political purposes and is unfit for the office he holds.” DM