Governance In Bitou Is In Crisis

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Governance In Bitou Is In Crisis

Dear Members,

Bitou Council has collapsed; the councillors cannot sort out the question of majority rule amongst themselves, and the effect is a state of stasis. The DA won’t act, and the ANC acts unlawfully. Someone must stop the people who have hijacked council, and restore good governance.

The letter below was sent to MEC Bredell, asking him to invoke his statutory investigative powers to make a limited intervention to investigate, make recommendations on how the deadlock should be resolved, and recommend actions to reverse the illegal decisions taken since April.

This cannot wait until the elections; even if the elections are held in October, a potential change in council will not reverse the past unlawful decisions.

We await MEC Bredell’s response.

Kind regards,

Peter Gaylard


30 August, 2021

Department of Local Government

Western Cape

Dear MEC Bredell,

Governance in Bitou is in crisis.

The Councillors in the majority, from Mayor Nel downward, decline to exercise the powers they lawfully enjoy and the minority, led by ‘Acting Mayor’ Gcbayi, act on the assumption that the powers are lawfully theirs. In consequence, decisions are being taken that are invalid, unconstitutional and unsustainable in law. The concern this situation engenders, unsurprising in itself, can only be compounded by the fact that the decisions include, so we understand, staff appointments that are both outside the official organogram and actuated by vote-getting, nepotism and patronage.

 

The Plettenberg Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association (‘the RA’), deeply distressed by these developments, invites you to intervene in order to resolve the crisis. It seems to us that you can best act under s 106 of the Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000 by appointing an investigator who will, as a matter of urgency,  determine the proper locus of power in the Council, identify the conduct of councillors and officials that is wrongful and unlawful, and make recommendations on the manner in which the wrongdoing should be rectified. Placing the municipality under administration may prove to be the only solution, but until the investigation has been conducted, concluding as much would be premature.

In motivating this recommendation, we see no reason to dwell on the facts, most of which will be familiar to you. We wish simply to record the following:

1.       At a Council meeting convened by the majority, Mr Nel was democratically elected Mayor of Bitou in place of Mr Lobese. On the facts at our disposal, we can see no reason to doubt the validity of the election.  It is, we consider, a matter of no consequence that the meeting proceeded in the absence of a chairman designated by you since the majority enjoyed in law a residual power to proceed as they did.

2.       The majority have formed the view that they cannot exercise their powers and so do nothing. Two factors, we are led to believe, are responsible for their state of paralysis: first, they are the victims of acts of intimidation that they are forced to take seriously; secondly, the senior municipal officials, being partisan, are refusing to provide the majority with the cooperation and support that they are duty bound to supply.

3.        In an effort, we suppose, to fill the void, the minority recently called a Council meeting that, for reasons best known to themselves, the majority chose to boycott.  Without a quorum, the meeting proved stillborn and no business was conducted.  Since we can detect no intention to reconvene the meeting or ensure that it is quorate, we can only conclude that the Council is moribund and the important work it should be conducting, such as the adoption of a municipal budget, will remain in abeyance.

In the face of these dismal facts, you, as MEC of Local Government, cannot, we feel sure, be complacent about the situation and will wish to act with speed and resolve. Nothing, not even the prevailing litigation between the majority and the minority, circumscribes your power to do so, which derives from statute and ultimately the Constitution. Above, we have suggested the course of action that might best provide a solution to the impasse, but we would be happy to discuss other expedients with you. We insist, however, that appropriate remedial action is taken as a matter of urgency: to allow the current state of stasis to continue is simply intolerable.

In making this point, we fully recognize that elections are pending and, even if postponed, should be held soon.  The majority seems to believe that this fact provides them with basis upon which to excuse their inertia, but this is obviously a misconception. The investigator can be expected to uncover the conduct illegally perpetrated by the minority and, based on these findings, remedial action can be taken by the responsible authority, whether it be the incoming Council or your office.

We look forward to your urgent action.

Kind regards,

Peter Gaylard

Chairman

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