In Business Day of October 22, it was reported that the Auditor General’s staff have been terrorised by several municipal officials, and have even been shot at.
AG Kimi Makwetu has raised this serious situation in a letter of October 15 to parliament’s standing committee on the Auditor General.
There can only be one reason for this intimidation, which is that the municipal officials involved are intent on hiding fraud and corruption. This cancer now seems to have spread to Bitou Municipality.
At a special council meeting on August 31, the mayor stated that provincial MEC Anton Bredell had instigated an investigation into Bitou Municipality because he believed that maladministration, fraud and corruption, and serious malpractice had occurred or was occurring (this under Section 106(1)(b) of the Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000, and the Western Cape Monitoring and Support of Municipalities Act 4 of 2014).
At this meeting, the mayor went on to advise council that:
1. This investigation will be challenged because we will not, as a local authority, bend under the minister’s bullying tactics.
2. Any official found to be cooperating with the investigators appointed by minister Bredell’s office will have disciplinary action instituted against them. “Disciplined for working with the investigator” - note the wording “with” - not “cooperating with a legally-constituted investigation”.
At the special council meeting on September 28, the DA Opposition tabled a motion titled ‘Bitou Municipality appointment of Siyathemba Sokutu Attorneys to stop investigation initiated by the office of the MEC in terms of Section 106(1) of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 0f 2000’, i.e. questioning this appointment, among other matters relating to this.
On the agenda of the mayoral committee meeting of October 24 under the heading of the abovementioned motion, the following report was recorded:
1. The executive mayor has appointed the attorneys in terms of the delegated functions/powers. (This occurred prior to August 13.)
2. The municipality will be responsible for the legal costs depending on the court’s decision (i.e. ratepayers will foot the bill).
3. The municipality is the applicant in the matter which include (sic) all the councillors unless recorded to the contrary.
Opposition councillors, in their motion of September 28, tabled the question: “If the minister’s allegations are unfounded, why go to the cost of this exercise instead of allowing the investigators to conclude their work?”
They also questioned why this matter was not presented to council for approval of the expenditure, and whether the mayor and in turn the municipal manager had the authority to institute a high-court action without council’s approval.
Furthermore, the opposition councillors have indemnified themselves against any cost for the mayor’s lawsuit as they were not party to any of the above decisions.
At the council meeting of November 2, it was recommended by the mayor that the abovementioned report of the mayco meeting of October 24 be acknowledged.
We leave it to everyone’s imagination as to why the mayor does not want the investigation to proceed.
Plettenberg Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association, Plett
(This letter was forwarded to Bitou Municipality for a response. - Eds.)