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Mayor #5 for Beaufort West — Gayton McKenzie announces leadership changes

Mayor #5 for Beaufort West — Gayton McKenzie announces leadership changes
Illustrative image, from left | Thersia Prince (Photo: Suné Payne) | Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Edrea du Toit) | Ebenezer Botha (Photo: Beaufort West Municipality) | Gideon Pietersen (Photo: Beaufort West Municipality)

The Patriotic Alliance will have new, but familiar leaders running its mayoral stronghold of Beaufort West in the Central Karoo. For the fifth time in three years, the mayoral chain will change hands – this time because of a mayor who stands accused of domestic violence.

Yet more musical chairs surround the mayoral chain of Beaufort West as Patriotic Alliance (PA) councillor Gideon Pietersen will soon be installed as mayor. 

The municipality – situated in the Western Cape along the N1 between Johannesburg and Cape Town – has struggled with leadership stability since the 2021 municipal elections.

On Sunday evening, PA president Gayton McKenzie announced via Facebook that Pietersen – a former mayor of Beaufort West – would once again become mayor. This followed the resignation last week of Ebenezer Botha.

Botha resigned after reports emerged of him allegedly physically abusing his fiancée. News24 reported that while police said a case of common assault had been registered, no one has yet been arrested or appeared in court. 

Botha became Beaufort West’s fourth mayor to resign from office since the 2021 municipal elections. 

The municipality is run by a coalition of the PA, ANC and a smaller local party, the Karoo Democratic Force (KDF).

The first mayor, Gideon Pietersen, resigned in June 2022 to make way for Thersia Prince. Prince is a PA councillor who came from the Central Karoo District Municipality and is the wife of former Beaufort West mayor Truman Prince.

By January 2023, Ashley Sauls replaced Prince as mayor. He is the mayor who wanted to rename Beaufort West as Dubai West. 

Read in Daily Maverick: ‘Dubai West’ — Beaufort West mayor proposes name change to ‘reflect local identity’

In September 2023, Sauls resigned to focus on being the PA’s premier candidate for the Western Cape in the upcoming general elections. Botha replaced him.

Now Pietersen is set to replace Botha.

While McKenzie did not say whether Botha had been expelled from the party, he said “We must pray… we can’t condemn”, adding that Botha was in the process of submitting a letter to the party about the alleged domestic violence incident.

PA faces criticism

Mawonga Furmen, a Beaufort West resident and SACP/ANC member who has been critical of the PA’s governance in the region, said: “The Beaufort West Municipality will now have its fifth mayor in less than three years, and none of these mayors completed a financial year in the position.”

In the 2021/2022 financial year, Beaufort West received an audit outcome of “qualified with findings”.

Furmen, who says he doesn’t speak for the SACP or ANC, told Daily Maverick he questioned why Botha had not been removed from the PA.

“Gender-based violence is a serious criminal offence that strips a woman of their dignity and psychologically harms their person.”

In his comments on Facebook, McKenzie said Pietersen had been brought back because the party needed black mayors.

“The PA can’t just have coloured mayors. We need black mayors and white mayors to show we are truly a colourful party,” he said.

The municipality’s deputy mayor, Lulama Piti (ANC), is currently acting as mayor.

Central Karoo

In another change, McKenzie announced that Thersia Prince would become the new deputy mayor of the Central Karoo District Municipality (CKDM) – the role Pietersen previously filled.

The CKDM comprises local municipalities such as Laingsburg, Beaufort West and Prince Albert.

Explaining the rationale behind Prince’s return to the district council, McKenzie said, “Having women in powerful positions is equally important for us.”

McKenzie is a former mayor of the CKDM, having governed between 2022 and 2023, before resigning to focus on his presidential ambitions. 

Last week, the DA’s caucus leader in Beaufort West, Schaun Meyers, said that as the opposition, his party would “make sure that service delivery in Beaufort West does not suffer because of the alleged crimes of the former executive mayor.

“The instability under the PA, ANC and KDF coalition since it took office has already been at the heart of service delivery failures that have left residents to fend for themselves.” 

When asked for comment on Monday about McKenzie’s announcement, DA provincial leader Tertuis Simmers told Daily Maverick: “We do not entertain speculation of this nature on social media… We will follow developments carefully and comment at the appropriate time.” DM

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