Below is the latest Newsletter from Memory Booysen, mayor of Bitou together with JEF’s responses.
Seventh Mayoral Letter
Date: January 30, 2012 | Posted in Letters & Opinions | News | Plettenberg Bay News
26 January 2012
Greetings for 2012!
At the start of our new year I would like to compliment the huge effort that went into security and crowd control for the Matric Rage, New Year’s Day and the season generally.
For the Matric Rage, an annual event that draws thousands of school leavers to Plettenberg Bay, considerable effort and coordination went into protecting our students. The SAPS, Traffic department, night clubs, the taxi association all worked together to improve transport for the students late at night and protection around the clock. A private security firm was contracted to assist with safety and check that no liquor was sold to under 18s. An estimated 5,000 students came to Plett during the two-week period. Their visit contributes greatly to our economy, and we appreciate them.
A similar joint effort went into the celebration on New Year’s Day and I can proudly say it was the calmest and best controlled in years. For the first time, we enforced the liquor act which bans liquor in public areas and allowed no alcohol on the beaches. People were searched and either turned away or requested to pour it out. People want a safe day on the beach with their kids and said it was a relief not to have drunk people spoiling the atmosphere.
We will continue to enforce this ban year round, and request increased police presence to also deter theft. Beach clean-up personnel said rather than needing a front end loader for all the bottles, they just needed a rake. Thanks to all the participating departments and private sector who worked together to keep our beaches safe and a fun place to spend the day. It was noticed and appreciated.
Feedback from the staff on the ground is that they were encouraged that senior management were very visible on the ground, showed a keen interest in what was happening and were supportive of their efforts.
That said; there were still unacceptable incidents of crime all over Plett, from our townships to high profile areas such as our main street, shopping malls and the beaches. We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many suggestions coming in of how we can improve and these suggestions are welcomed and will be seriously considered by those responsible. We have to walk the tight rope between being over controlling-spoil-sports and having zero tolerance for crime – we will give this our best shot. Your feedback is invaluable in achieving this.
The Mayor takes credit for the calm matric rage. However, these are the facts:
1. Fortunately one of the local security companies phoned the Acting Municipal Manager, Duppie Du Plessis, a week before the rage, to inquire when they can expect the Strategic Plan (a comprehensive logistic plan of action submitted by the municipality to all law enforcement institutions in the past to ensure law and order during this time).
2. Duppie replied that he doesn’t have a clue what this entails and moreover that he is on holiday and cannot give his attention to it.
3. On insistence of the security company Duppie eventually told them to draw up the plan themselves and liaise with the SAPD and the Bitou Law Enforcement Unit and organize everything exactly as they did in the past.
4. Neither he nor the Mayor took any part in the planning and strategizing of the event. In fact, the Mayor was oblivious to the part which the municipality was supposed to play in the process.
5. Thankfully sanity prevailed and Duppie authorized the Bitou Law Enforcement Unit to participate in the planning and implementing of the plan, despite of the Mayor and Speaker’s reservations and resentment against them.
6. The unit immediately implemented the plan of action for the season and pulled off a majorly successful rage together with the SAPD and local security companies. All credit due to them. All their efforts and hard work paid off.
7. It is shameful how the Mayor takes credit for other parties’ achievements and then goes even further and utilizes the favourable result which they achieved to try and score political points.
On page two of my letter dated 9 December 2011, under the heading “R28 m Land Fiasco”, I reported on various issues relating to the agreement for the purchase of land dated 28 January 2011 entered into between Wavelengths and Bitou. Following this letter our attorneys received a letter from Wavelengths attorneys recording that they were of the view that the statements published were defamatory and/or inaccurate and reserving Wavelength’s rights in this regard. We dispute that these statements were defamatory and/or inaccurate in any respect, and the municipality does not admit any liability in this regard. The Municipality nevertheless hereby unconditionally retracts the statements made, and specifically the statement that ‘As time passes by it becomes more and more evident that the deal was not kosher. Criminal charges are currently being investigated in parallel with the disciplinary charges already running’.
The Mayor honestly needs to fire whoever is advising him. No wonder the budget for legal fees is already exhausted. JEF surely does not need to explain how contradictory and meaningless this “retraction” is. Wavelength’s attorney is probably still laughing after reading this.
We can now report that Judge Combrinck has handed down his findings in the disciplinary hearing of the suspended Municipal Manager. Certain of the charges brought against the suspended Municipal Manager were related to the role he played in this land deal. Judge Combrinck has found the suspended Municipal Manager guilty on four of the seven charges brought against him for breaches of various provisions of the Municipal Systems Act and the Municipal Financial Management Act.
The suspended Municipal Manager was found guilty of misrepresenting to Wavelengths attorneys that the Municipality had obtained the funds to pay the agreed price of R28 million for the purchase of the land, and of giving the false impression that the suspensive condition contained in the Deed of Sale (namely, that the sale would only become effective once the funds necessary to pay the purchase had been secured from Province) had been met. In coming to his finding Judge Combrinck commented that what the suspended Municipal Manager’s “motive was for persuading the Council to pay R28 million for the property remains unanswered. That he did not act with fidelity, honesty and integrity is stating the obvious”.
The R28m land deal/Wavelengths trial date has been rescheduled to 28 February, 2012.
JUDGMENT OF THE DISCIPLINARY HEARING OF THE MUNICIPAL MANAGER:
JEF understands that the municipal manager will appeal this judgment. After a careful study of the judgment and both sets of legal arguments, JEF is convinced that it will eventually be rescinded by either the Bargaining Council or the Labour Court on various points. The findings contradict the basic fundamental principles of Local Government. For instance; in the judgment it is said that it escapes the chairperson how it can be argued that the Mayor and Speaker unlawfully interfered with the municipality’s administration. However, everyone in Local Government knows that it is specifically prohibited in terms of the Constitution. It is unlawful for any councillor to interfere with the administration of the municipality and in fact; disciplinary action MUST be instituted by the Speaker against such councillor who contravenes this regulation. In another instance it was found that municipal manager is in the employment of the Mayor. It escapes JEF that the Chairperson doesn’t know that full council is the employer and that the legal relationship between them is not one of master and servant. The municipal manager is the head of the municipality (administration and day to day running of the municipality) and the Mayor the head of the council (policy making and decision taking on certain issues). They enjoy equal status and fulfil completely different functions.
Chief Financial Officer Deon Lott resigned effective 20 January, and Manager of Budget and Treasury Mandy Cornett resigned effective 13 January; both have joined Oudtshoorn’s municipality.
Arising out of these two resignations, Thys Giliomee, has been appointed Acting Chief Financial Officer until the position can be advertised and filled. Thys is highly qualified, holding six university degrees, in law, economics and public administration, and is an advocate of the High Court. I think it is safe to say that our finances are in capable and safe hands.
Keith Jordaan, former CFO of Oudtshoorn, has been appointed Acting Manager of Budget and Treasury until the position is advertised and filled. He has been a tremendous asset to us already. In my next letter I will have a full report on our finances once Thys and Keith have done their investigations and Council receives the Auditor-General report.
I am also very pleased to welcome Dupre Lombaard who joined us 1 January as our Head of Strategic Services, responsible for Town Planning, Tourism, Local Economic Development, Integrated Development Planning, Building Controls & Infrastructure, and Performance Management Systems. Dupre joins us from Stellenbosch Municipality and is a Plett homeowner. One of Dupre’s priorities will be to clean out the backlog of building applications and get the construction industry pumping in Plett. If you have an outstanding land use and/or building application that you would like to enquire about, please send an email or letter to the Acting Municipal Manager, Duppie du Plessis (email@example.com).
If only these changes were legal and in accordance with the law…
JEF in any event wishes them all success in their new positions. JEF is however curious how Thys Gilomee managed to obtain 4 university degrees in the period stretching from his testimony in the municipal manager’s disciplinary hearing to the date of the Mayor’s 7th letter. JEF furthermore trusts that he managed to establish in the meantime in terms of what legislation the financial statements are drawn up and which accountancy system is used. If not, our municipality’s finances will soon be ‘n G.R.A.P (those of you who had the privilege to witness Thys attempting to cross examine Brian Molefe will catch this one!)
Contrary to the untruthful rumors being spread in e-mails, on websites and in the local press, preliminary investigations into maladministration and corruption in our administration have revealed that a disturbing number of such incidents did indeed take place. It is time consuming to investigate these, compile the necessary evidence and draft the disciplinary, criminal and other charges and civil claims against those involved. The mere fact that we have not, as yet, acted in this regard does not mean that no evidence has been found.
I am advised that charge sheets will be served on at least nine employees relating to financial and other misconduct and that the disciplinary hearings will commence in February.
As I have mentioned before, it is a long, arduous process to investigate and prepare the charges, but we are making progress. Already there are signs that people who have been involved in shady activities are seeking greener pastures elsewhere.
We remain determined to root out all maladministration and corruption in the municipality. We will do so without fear or favour and will not spare anybody involved whether they are employees, ex-employees or outsiders.
Excuses, excuses and more excuses. If they want to root out maladministration and corruption the municipality need only look at what they have done the last 6 months. Unfortunately the municipality investigates only the tips they receive (on their corruption “hotline”) for incidents which took place before June 2011. The nine employees who received notices of disciplinary hearings are the last employees who are suspected of leaking out damaging information (i.e. Didata-gate and Brummer’s email). If they get rid of them, the last “rotten apples” will be gone and they may continue with business unfettered.
It has been a long process, but our much-needed Organizational Design project will commence in February with PricewaterhouseCoopers having been appointed as the service provider. This project is being funded by Province and its objective will be to determine the organization structure needed to do the work of our municipality efficiently and what posts are needed, develop a proper job description for each post and ensure a suitable person is in that post. To know exactly who is responsible for what will make the municipality much more manageable. The anticipated completion date is August 2012 whereafter it will go to Council for approval.
JEF cannot understand why PricewaterhouseCoopers must be appointed to draft a simple micro- and micro organizational structure monogram. Is not one of the newly appointed Local Government experts capable of doing it? Not even Thys Giliomee who claims to be an expert in Labour Law and apparently holds 6 university degrees?
As the saying goes, “No good deed will go unpunished.” As reported before, DiData, through the good offices of Jeremy Ord, assisted us in our moment of need to do a system and needs analysis of our IT system. It produced a very comprehensive report enabling us to accurately assess the current IT situation. This extensive, time consuming and very costly work was done at no cost to the municipality. I reiterate, that contrary to the vicious rumours and malicious allegations being spread via email and on the internet, the work was done free of charge with no strings attached.
Inter alia it was found that the whole IT system was at a point of imminent melt-down. Drastic measures were required – immediately. There was no time to go to tender to get a service provider to draw up detailed specifications to call for tenders to deal with the problem. The problem needed to be dealt with immediately. On that basis the Municipal Manager obtained a quote from Didata to do what has to be done immediately to keep us going while tender specifications are drafted and the tender process can be followed to appoint a long-term service provider. We are satisfied that what we are paying is in line with industry norms and standards and that the service received so far is necessary and of an excellent standard.
The municipality will shortly be calling for tenders for the implementation of the comprehensive IT system. It is expected that this contract will be awarded towards the middle of this year.
I apologize to Jeremy Ord, Didata and their staff for the totally unwarranted bad publicity they have received from this very small, malicious and destructive element of Plett’s society.
Please see various articles on this subject elsewhere on our website. It is truly refreshing to see that some of the mainstream media was actually prepared to publish something about this scandal, although the tenor of reporting was extremely meek. JEF cannot help to wonder how the reporting would have differed in both style and substance if Bitou was still governed by the ANC. Still we are happy to note that at least the true facts were published. The Mayor probably wishes that he had the benefit of foresight before he published the above ludicrous and bold denials, and made those frivolous remarks about the people who exposed this scandal.
The two best and final offers for the operation of the airport have been presented to our transaction advisor, Mr. Sarel Liebenberg, who will evaluate the final two bids, and our transaction attorney, Mr. Gerhard Botha, who will negotiate and draft the agreement with the final bidder. After their review, they will present the successful bidder to Mayco and Council.
An “open-day” will be held for the public to view the proposal and for the successful bidder to address any concerns and take note of suggestions.
This has been a long process because procedure has been followed exactly, and there are many different interests to consider, such as adjacent land owners and hanger owners. There are several improvements to the airport which will be required of the successful bidder and will have to be negotiated in the lease agreement and service level agreement. We appreciate your patience throughout this process.
JEF is very happy to see that there is still some time found somewhere between all the investigations, quests to find corruption, rooting out all the “rotten apples”, talking to the media and organizing smear campaigns against individuals who dare to challenge them (enemies of the State), to actually spend on something worthwhile and desperately needed in our town. JEF hopes that the Public Protector will turn a blind eye on all the irregularities in the procurement process on this one or else the whole project will have to start from scratch.
Thanks to our Fire Fighters
I would like to recognize our Station Officer, Fire & Rescue, Hedley Venter and his firefighting team for their quick containment of a vegetation fire in Uplands on 10 January. A helicopter with bambi bucket was used to quickly contain the blaze along with the ground crew. Officer Venter would like to remind land owners of the need to create and maintain fire breaks as stipulated in the Veld and Forestry Fire Act to minimize fire risk. Please contact Officer Venter with any questions.
I wish to take this opportunity to appeal to everybody to exercise extreme caution when using fire. Please avoid it if at all possible. Especially in the rural areas, before you burn anything please contact your local FPA or the Bitou Fire Department for guidance.
Once again a very prosperous and happy New Year to everyone.
More of this please Mr. Mayor! Please take a leaf out of Mandela’s life and make us all proud again to be residents of the once great town called Plettenberg Bay. JEF quotes Judge Cloete in her judgment delivered in the Brummer case (which you so harshly criticized and rejected, although it was praised and echoed by your own MEC of Local Government, Anton Bredell):
“ It seems to me that the time has arrived for all of the Council members to move beyond the in-fighting which is so clearly prevalent and to rather focus on fulfilling in good faith the mandate conferred on them by their electorate, which is to serve their constituents in a manner befitting our constitutional democracy in a spirit of co-operative governance.”
Mayor of Plettenberg Bay
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