My words are more praise than criticism when i state that not since evangelist Jimmy Swaggart was caught with the second prostitute have i witnessed so many upset white people – it was wonderful!
Knysna may get black people closing the N2 and coloured, ‘church’ folk marching down the hill against crime but the absence of white protest for people issues has been glaringly absent.
The R30-million debt write-off by Knysna Municipality never gained a whisper. The expensive, outside of tender, office upgrades only generated gossip. Corruption at Knysna Tourism, despite it being the representative body of our tourist based economy, never sparked action. The dubious ISDF tender for our future raised two eyebrows but no feet.
Why did protest happen now? Because the Knysna DA initiated strange intention to make designated public drinking areas. By “drinking”, i mean alcohol, of course. And by “strange” i mean not only illogical but mysterious (because we’ve yet to get answers to our questions – never forget that).
Let me complete this soggy saga by telling you how the DA swept the matter (and their responsibility) under the rug.
‘Twas 15 nights before xmas with all in the house,
politician were loud, not at all like mice
Voices were raised about the drunken agenda,
it’s not only coloureds who go on a bender
Every colour, all were there,
a public so restless, on the edge of their chairs
but the DA had a plan, nothing to fear,
so one by one they disappeared…
December 10 found the Council Chambers packed for the final meeting of the year. Most were there to hear a decision on the designated drinking areas.
It was obvious that politics and racism had replaced true debate as my usual chair was surrounded by ANC t-shirts facing the DA-led Council. I find it entirely distasteful how both sides have dealt with this issue but that took second place when the DA dodged respect for the public.
Although it had been stated at ward meetings, the mayoral meeting and in the media, the drinking matter wasn’t on the agenda!
Realising this the day before, i’d blogged about it and heard that others had complained too. Objections must have won the day because it was included in the Supplementary Agenda, the last moment additions to Council meetings that never get posted online.
As obvious as a pink elephant in a micro-bikini doing backstroke in the Knysna Estuary was that the crowd were there to hear the debate and decision.
However, they wouldn’t get to hear it because the DA left it for last. The meeting started at 9am but the topic was only heard at 5.52pm, almost 9 hours later. By no means did the 1800-page agenda have to follow the order printed. In fact, early on the supplementary point of new staff appointments was dealt with so that the staff, ironically, could go back to work. That there was no similar consideration for the public was appalling.
One by one, they disappeared, back to work, their families, home… the DA’s sweeping the matter under the rug, away from the public’s eye, had begun.
The second sweep of the broom was an obviously coordinated response by the DA and DA-mini-me, Elrick van Aswegen. Despite public meetings having roared with negativity and the issue having become the most spoken about of the year, it was reinterpreted with a common thread which was that it was a success because it exposed views and division (we supposedly never realised existed).
How are a few of the comments:
Eleanore Bouw-Spies (DA/Speaker): “I found it very insightful and intense, what came out the process. It was a successful process in that it brought out deep rooted issues. Some of those issues were based on our racist past. What came out as well was disparity in terms of [legal] enforcement. If i look at the summaries of the meetings that were held… there was no clear view that said no or yes. It was clear that we have issues with alcohol near the water. I drove around to look at these areas. It was shocking. There were people urinating on people’s properties. There were people wanting to unwind but the reality was that a lot of people didn’t want to go out and be exposed to it. There was a lot of valid reasons coming from both sides. This has made our town talk. They have lashed out. They spoke their minds. Whatever decision we take, will that be the right one or the wrong one… i don’t believe there is a right or wrong… but we must take a decision today.”
Ray Barrell (DA): “We don’t have the resources to enforce designated areas throughout the municipality… Laws must be enforced equally.”
Stephen de Vries: “I’m trying to understand what the DA wants. The DA wants the law to remains as it is but there’s a lot of ‘buts’. It sends out mixed signals.”
Peter Myers (DA): “I think that the Speaker put the matter excellently. There is no consensus. There is a need for this by-law to be enforced equally. We need to take into account that there was valuable debate. For that, the process was good.”
Elrick van Aswegen: “How did we get to this situation where we went out for public participation and what was debated. Not talking about how people felt. It indicated how divided we are as a town and a community. More sad is how the media reported on it. We should call a spade a spade. How did we never correct the media that we were never changing a by-law?”
Stephen de Vries (ANC Chief Whip) said that, “The issue is that the DA is afraid to vote to the matter.” He was perceptive in that the DA was opting not to vote by rather leave the by-law as it was (a point white, DA voters had made very clear).
The ANC put in a counter motion for designated drinking areas and when asked to specify which areas, Clive Witbooi said, “Green Hole, Cathy’s Park, Buffalo Bay, the golf course, The Island (Sedgefield) and Coney Glen.”
Peter Myers almost sparked another race row with, “That was informative. I notice that there were no areas in Hornlee or the Northern Communities.”
“I’m offended,” said De Vries. “There are no braai facilities in our areas!”
The DA’s motion came down to 8 versus 8 because DA Councillor Louisa Hart had left early owing to a death in her family.
That made Elrick Van Aswegen the deciding vote. Considering that he’d been the loudest in support of drinking and had stated that no matter the decision, he would take his beer to Green Hole, it would have only been logical if he’d voted with the ANC.
On the other hand, a cynic such as myself takes note that despite Van Aswegen being opposition to her for 4-and-a-half years, Mayor Georlene Wolmarans recently promoted him to her all-powerful, Mayoral Committee (MAYCO). To do so, she bizarrely replaced one of her own DA members. And, in doing so, she almost doubled Van Aswegen’s salary.
Whether any of that affected Van Aswegen’s decision is anyone’s guess but its certain that he should have won an award for being the most hypocritical politician of the year.
Rather than vote, he abstained with a whimper.
With a tie, it was left to Eleanore Bouw-Spies, as Speaker, to vote – she did so, obviously, in favour of the DA.
The by-law, although muddy and abused, remains as it was – no drinking allowed in public.
Van Aswegen wasn’t the only hypocrite. Without standing up for their supporters or admitting wrong, the DA, in particular Peter Myers and Mark Willemse, are walking away from the mess they created.
Elections are approaching. Expect more of everything that’s wrong with our politicians.
Please keep protesting. Protest sensibly. For those who won this round, i salute you – be encouraged and emboldened by it. Protest where it matters most. We have a town that’s swum off course. Let’s bring her back.