WHAT’S GOING ON?

Political confusion continues to reign (or should that be ‘rain’?) over Knysna Municipality, with fingers pointing in all directions, accusations made left, right and centre, and all of this within one party. In this edition we cover two of the most recent instances in which it seems that Knysna’s ruling party – the Democratic Alliance – is turning on itself.

Yesterday, a complaint of ‘breach of conduct’ was launched against the Knysna caucus of the Democratic Alliance by the Knysna Ratepayers Association.
It seems that the story started on 29 August when, at a council meeting it was recommended to Council that Mr. Lindile Petuna, who started his employ at Knysna Municipality on 1 August 2019 as the Manager, Integrated Human Settlements, be appointed as an internal member of the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal (“KMPT”). With no concerns raised at the time, he was duly appointed by a unanimous vote.
However, the following day, Dr Dion George MP, who is the DA Constituency Head for Knysna, issued the following press statement.
“The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Knysna is concerned to learn of the appointment of Lindile Petuna as the Human Settlements Manager for the Knysna Municipality.
Petuna, who also features prominently in Crispian Olver’s book, How to Steal a City, has been accused of misleading or attempting to mislead the Nelson Mandela Bay Council on 133 separate occasions after which he resigned at his disciplinary hearing.
We are calling on Mayor Mark Willemse and his ANC counterparts, to urgently review this appointment in light of this deeply concerning information.
Given Mr Petuna’s track record, the DA does not believe that he will execute his official duties in the best interest of the people of Knysna.
Providing residents with the dignity of a home, cannot be degraded by officials who are facing charges of misconduct and corruption.
We will monitor the situation carefully and continue to put pressure on the Mayor and his executive, to put the interests of Knysna ahead of dodgy appointments.
The DA will fight to hold this municipality accountable to the people.”

DA Mayor Mark Willemse was one of the first to respond to Dr George’s public accusation.

“As the Executive Mayor of the Knysna Municipality, I am not responsible or involved in any staff appointments to the administration. Mr Petuna is a Manager who is appointed through the normal Human Resources procedures.
The role of councillors is merely one of oversight to ensure all the correct processes are adhered to. Mr Petuna’s appointment to the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal on 29 August 2019 was a unanimous Council decision without any concerns raised at the time.
If Dr George or anyone else has information relevant to the person so appointed, they should have alerted Council to the information before the Council decision was made. I urge them to report the information to the Office of the Municipal Manager, Dr Vatala, as soon as possible. Dr Vatala is the final authority on the appointment of staff to the administration. Council only has the authority to appoint Municipal Managers and Directors as per legislation.”

Meanwhile the Knysna Ratepayers Association, presumably believing that at least some members of the DA Caucus had been aware of their constituent head’s misgivings about Petuna, composed a complaint which they presented to the Council Speaker.
Referring to Dr George’s press release, their complaint stated in part:
“The allegations (in the release) against Mr Petuna are of a very serious nature and we are mindful of the fact that Mr Petuna has not been found guilty (he allegedly resigned before the disciplinary hearing had been completed). However, if the allegations, which include alleged unlawful planning decisions, are proven to be accurate, it would certainly result in Mr Petuna being considered unfit to serve on the KMPT. 
The KMPT is a quasi-judicial body and its members must be of unquestionable integrity.
Considering the request in the press release from the DA that the appointment should be urgently reviewed, we would have expected the DA Caucus to be strongly opposed to the appointment of the manager in question to the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal .”
The complaint to the Speaker asks that each and every member of the DA Caucus explain how he or she could support this appointment to the tribunal.
“We call on you to initiate an investigation in terms of section 14(1) of the Code of Conduct into each and every member of the DA Caucus to determine whether they have breached the said Code,” it reads.

Then, on the afternoon of Tuesday 3 September, the Knysna Municipality released the following press release:-
NEW HOUSING OFFICIAL APPOINTMENT IN LINE WITH PROPER PROCEDURE.
According to Knysna Municipal Manager Dr Sitembele Vatala, Lindile Petuna is the most suitable candidate for the position of Manager: Human Settlements. “A qualified and registered town planner, Mr Petuna performed exceptionally well during the Municipality’s vigorous recruitment and selection process which included a written assessment, interview session and screening.”
Dr Vatala’s validation of this appointment follows a recent press statement issued by Mr Dion George of the Democratic Alliance on this subject. “The Executive Mayor and councillors are only involved in the appointment of the Municipal Manager. The appointment of other staff members is the responsibility of the Municipal Manager, who is the Municipality’s Accounting Officer. This is stipulated in Section 66 of the Municipal Systems Act, Number 32 of 2000,” explained Vatala.
“A seasoned politician like Mr George should be aware of this. If he harboured reservations about any new appointment, he should have written to me in my capacity as Accounting Officer. I find it regrettable that he chose to bring the Municipality into disrepute through a politically motivated press statement,” Vatala said.
“The DA unanimously supported the appointment of Mr Petuna to the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal (KMPT) at the Council Meeting of 29 August 2019, one day before Mr George’s statement was issued. Were the allegations made by Mr George merited, the DA Councillors should have brought these to the attention of the full Council and KMPT.”
“The Municipality stands by its decision to appoint Mr Petuna, based on his proven experience, capability and track record,” Vatala concluded.