In another twist to the political tale that has been Knysna Municipal Council over the last month or so, both Mayor Mark Willemse and Councillor Peter Myers have been found guilty of one violation of the DA Constitution in the disciplinary proceeding against them.
If the disciplinary panel’s sentencing recommendations are accepted by the party’s Provincial Executive Committee (PEC), their membership in the Democratic Alliance will be terminated unless they each agree to adhere to three conditions set by the hearing panel. At the time of going to press it is unknown whether the councillors intend to do this as the panel’s recommendations are still to be approved by the PEC.
In the interim, they will each retain their party membership, their posts as councillors, their positions on municipal committees, and in Mayor Willemse’s case, the mayorship.
The hearing, held in a boardroom at the Knysna Protea Hotel on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd August, was the continuation of the one originally started in Cape Town on Saturday, 7 July. It was opened to the public at the last minute, though space constraints only allowed for five or six additional people to witness the process first hand.
After hearing testimony from the councillors themselves, as well as witnesses including Sedgefield Councillors Cathy Weiderman and Levael Davis, Council Speaker Georlene Wolmarans and Western Cape MEC for Local Government Anton Bredell, both Willemse and Myers were found guilty of the single charge of voting against their party’s caucus – this in the Motion of No Confidence against the previous mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies which was proposed in the Knysna Council Chambers on Wednesday 6 June. This resulted in her losing the mayoral position and Willemse being voted in as mayor by Myers and opposition councillors.
Both pleaded not guilty to the charge, citing that they ‘voted their conscience’ based on what they alleged were acts of corruption and maladministration on the previous mayor’s part.
The Panel’s recommended sentences, based on notes taken at the hearing were as follows. Councillor Mark Willemse’s DA membership to be terminated with immediate effect. However, that termination is suspended providing that he adheres to three conditions. Firstly, he should remove Peter Myers from the Mayoral Committee within ten days of the PEC’s acceptance of the panel’s recommended sentence. Secondly, any media releases issued by his office should be approved in advance by the PEC, and thirdly he should go through the DA’s mayoral selection process. If he does not pass this selection process, he would have to resign immediately as mayor, but will remain a councillor. If he passes, then he will continue as Knysna’s mayor.
The panel also recommended that Councillor Peter Myers’ membership be terminated immediately, once again indicating that this sentence be suspended provided that he adhere to three conditions: that henceforth he attends all caucus meetings, that he resigns from the Mayoral Committee within 10 days of acceptance of the Panel’s recommendation by the PEC, and that he diligently adheres to the DA’s social media policy.
The panel’s recommended sentence provides that any violation of any of these conditions by Willemse of Myers will result in the lifting of the suspension of the sentence so that termination as a DA member takes immediate effect.
The Panel was composed of Kobus Leroux and two other members: Annelie Rabie, and Derrick America. Annelie Rabie is the mayor of Prince Albert, and Derrick America is the head of the Provincial disciplinary committee. The Committee Assistant (effectively the prosecutor) was Anton Coetsee.
Should Willemse and Myers be forced to leave the DA in this manner they will obviously no longer be councillors for their particular wards. This would necessitate by-elections for those wards, in which Willemse and Myers would be able to run, either representing another party or standing as independents.