South Africa

AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Court orders Gayton McKenzie to hand over documents for corruption probe

Court orders Gayton McKenzie to hand over documents for corruption probe
Patriotic Alliance president Gayton McKenzie at the IEC Results Operation Centre in Midrand on 1 June 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A court has ordered Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie to submit documents for an investigation into aspects of his Central Karoo Municipality mayorship, including the glitzy Sandton gala he hosted to raise funds for ‘service delivery’.

Former Central Karoo District Municipality mayor Gayton McKenzie, and a law firm linked to the Patriotic Alliance (PA), have been ordered by the Western Cape High Court to hand over information to investigators looking into allegations of corruption.

According to Monday’s court order, they must comply with investigators’ requests for information related to a Section 106 probe initiated by Western Cape MEC for Local Government Anton Bredell.

Among other issues, the investigation is probing a glitzy gala dinner that raised R3-million in Sandton in 2022 ostensibly for service delivery projects in the Karoo.

The court directed the law firm Botha E & Erasmus Y Inc to furnish information related to the fundraiser, including copies of agreements and memoranda, and documentation confirming the use of funds related to service delivery projects during McKenzie’s mayorship.

According to the court, in August 2023, Bredell ordered forensic investigators to look into allegations of maladministration, fraud, corruption and other serious malpractices at the municipality. McKenzie’s party, the Patriotic Alliance, referred to the investigation in a statement issued shortly before the elections.

Responding to the court order, the PA’s head of legal, Eugene Botha, said the court order instructed law firms and service providers to “share certain limited documents and private bank statements, to be redacted”, with Bredell’s investigation into whether there was any maladministration by the municipality concerning McKenzie’s projects to replace bucket systems and fix public pools in the Central Karoo District.

The judgment noted that the municipality had cooperated with the investigation. The district is governed by a coalition of the PA, the ANC and the Karoo Democratic Force (KDF).

It includes local municipalities such as Laingsburg, Beaufort West and Prince Albert. Laingsburg and Beaufort West are run by a coalition of the PA, ANC and KDF. Prince Albert is run by the DA, which governs the Western Cape.

The PA and DA have sporadically been at loggerheads and had a spat in 2023 over the very same gala fundraiser.

Read more in Daily Maverick: DA and PA again at loggerheads — this time over ‘missing’ R3m from Gayton McKenzie’s gala dinner fundraiser

Pools and bucket toilets

When McKenzie took office as mayor in April 2022, Daily Maverick reported that he claimed he would not accept a salary, which would instead reportedly be used to fix the municipality’s dilapidated swimming pools. 

He also promised to kickstart a programme to clean graveyards and said that within 100 days he would try to eradicate the bucket toilet system in the district. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Central Karoo mayor Gayton McKenzie calls illegal immigrants a ‘stain’ and warns of ‘citizen’s arrests’

He then held an event in Beaufort West, which included media tours of swimming pools and new businesses in the area. It was at this July 2022 gathering that McKenzie announced he would run for president of South Africa. 

He resigned as mayor in May 2023, claiming he had fixed several public swimming pools and eradicated the bucket system.

However, a different story would soon emerge. When Daily Maverick visited the area, only one pool was functional, and while flushing toilets had been installed, concerns were raised about their financial and logistical upkeep. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ex-Karoo mayor Gayton McKenzie’s claims regarding swimming pools, bucket toilets and Eskom debt under scrutiny

News24 reported in June 2023 that the money raised at McKenzie’s Sandton gala dinner never went into the municipality’s bank account, but rather into an account held by Botha E & Erasmus Y Inc. Its directors include the PA’s legal boss, Eugene Botha.

‘This is my own project’

According to the court, McKenzie had made public utterances “promising to undertake certain service delivery initiatives within the first 100 days of his term of office as mayor”.

He then discovered the municipality did not have funds to give effect to the promise. According to the ruling, McKenzie, “with the knowledge and consent” of the municipality, “proceeded with fundraising initiatives to implement his promise”. 

“Those initiatives were known to be his own personal projects.”

McKenzie contended that the projects fell outside the usual reporting of municipal funds and the money was paid into a trust account belonging to Botha E & Erasmus Y Inc.

According to McKenzie’s version, “The monies raised were not those of the municipality, and the municipality itself contributed no money to the expenditure.” 

The court noted that the firm of attorneys failed to respond or hand over certain information related to the investigation, citing attorney/client privilege and a potential breach of the Protection of Personal Information Act. 

It is also stated the firm would only hand over requested information “if a court order compels it to do so”.

In addition to the documents that need to be handed over, the court ordered “documentation confirming the utilisation of funds, which should include amongst others, invoices, receipts, confirmation that services were provided, progress reports and proof of payments in particular” related to McKenzie’s 100-day projects. 

‘Errors of fact’

“There is nothing sinister in this matter and the respondents, president Gayton McKenzie most of all, have always been willing to share this information, provided that certain limited documents and private bank statements are redacted to protect the privacy of individuals who have no relation to the matter in question,” said the PA on Tuesday. 

The party, however, raised concerns over “patent errors of fact” in the judgment, which included ticket prices. According to News24, tickets for McKenzie’s gala dinner cost R20,000 per table, or R2,000 per person.

“We will take legal advice and decide the correct way forward to ensure the protection of private individuals from this particular use and abuse of state power,” said Botha. 

McKenzie must account, says DA

On Tuesday, DA Western Cape leader Tertuis Simmers said: “The DA welcomes the Western Cape High Court’s ruling that PA president, Gayton McKenzie, must account for the funds he raised at an event in Sandton in his capacity as mayor of the Central Karoo District Municipality… 

“The DA demands that McKenzie and the PA abide by the high court ruling and urgently account for the monies in question.” DM

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