Politics is sometimes as entertaining and fantastical as a Walt Disney movie. This afternoon, at a Special Council Meeting in the Knysna chambers in Clyde Street, Eleonor Spies, the ex-ANC Mayor of Knysna was not only inaugurated as a DA Councillor but made Speaker, arguably a more powerful position than Mayor.
The City of Johannesburg defined the role of Speaker as “the promoter and protector of democracy, facilitating debate and arrival at consensus within the Standing Rules of Council and ensuring ethical conduct by councillors.” Not only does the Speaker keep politicians in line in Council meetings but is suppose to facilitate community participation, something her predecessors (Richard Dawson and Michelle Wasserman) actively worked against. SALGA (South African Local Government Association) states that the Speaker’s role is also as protector of the council’s integrity which means that he or she should chair the committee that deals with ethics. Therefore, Eleonor Spies should be the most honourable person on the Council. Is she? We’ll have to try discover that over the coming months.
Hours before this and other political moves today, i posted these prophecies on Facebook:
“A Special Council Meeting will be held at the Knysna Municipality between 2pm-3pm today. That they never gave warning feels like a cold shoulder to the public again. Of course they knew they had to have this meeting because the by-election was held this past week.
Maybe it will be more than just announcing Eleonor Bouw as a Council member. After all, as mentioned in this morning’s blog, Jaco Londt is the new “big chief”, looking after Cape Town’s DA interests in Knysna. Maybe this will mean a shake up of DA positions on the MAYCO (that’s the inner council that makes the real decisions in our town). How long will it be before Eleonor makes that committee?
Will rumours of a potentially embarrassing situation involving a Councillor be staved off with her stepping down?
When will Michelle Wasserman get out of politics (will she, at least today, step down as Speaker)?
And will some of the dead wood such as Richard Dawson be kicked off like a desperate penalty shootout for the sanity of Knysna government.
The ANC will look on like the useless opposition they are.
Today could be interesting. For Knysna’s sake, we should hope so.”
This is what happened:
- Jaco Londt may not have been in Council chambers but he entered Knysna Municipality one hour before me.
- Michelle Wasserman, and her cool new hairdo, stepped down as Speaker.
- Eleonor Spies became Speaker despite no track record with the DA and it being her first day as a DA councillor.
- Richard Dawson was kicked off the MAYCO (Mayoral Committee).
- Ray Barrell (DA) and Irene Grootboom (DA) joined the MAYCO.
Yes, when she was ANC you knew her as Eleonor Bouw-Spies. Then she got divorced and called herself Eleonor Bouw. But it turned out that she’s simply registered as Eleonor Spies and thus had to run under her real name when Magda Williams, the previously councillor, suddenly died.
Eleonor Spies undoubtedly has smarts and a gift for public speaking. We could have a lot worse than her. It just doesn’t sit right with me the way this has been done, the feeling that we’re manipulated out of real control over our lives.
I’ve always wanted to like Eleonor and support her but she has to overcome the 2010 soccer disaster that drained our town’s coffers and the fact that she’s a floor-crosser. Then there’s the 3 jobs and failed business she’s had over the past 3 years. And, of course, the rumours and accusations that her ex-husband, Rowan Spies, was allegedly involved in an ANC jobs-for-pals scheme in neighbouring Plettenberg Bay whilst she was Knysna’s ANC Mayor.
She’s also re-entered public office on the other side of the wall that has been erected between the politicians (DA, ANC & COPE) and us, the Knysna public. Transparency and accountability would go a lot further towards credibility. Then, again, does the public actually do anything to show that it gives a damn?
Let’s close with what Eleonor Spies said today: “Seems that I’m destined for hot seats.”
Read the follow-on, ‘Is the DA Building Eleonor Spies into Knysna’s Next Mayor?’