At the Knysna Tourism AGM last night, Lisette Withers, co-owner of the Knysna Elephant Park made a query that implied that Johan van Schalkwyk, the Marketing Manager for Knysna Tourism, had benefited illegally when his visiting family’s accommodation had been paid by Tourism.
Greg Vogt, the CEO of Knysna Tourism, responded with (paraphrasing according to the other players i’ll soon introduce), “That must be the Knysna Hollow incident. It was dealt with internally which goes to show that we’ve got good checks and balances in place.” By saying such, he basically said that something was wrong and seemed to confirm the guilt of Johan van Schalkwyk. The choice of words cannot be seen as anything else but intentional. Vogt may have done a back-flip the next day but at the AGM it was as if he was taking the opportunity to take Van Schalkwyk down a notch.
Early this morning, i noticed that the Knysna-Plett Herald (KPH) had posted an article last night that said, “Vogt gave a vague explanation and said the money was paid from Van Schalkwyk’s own pocket press release by Van Schalkwyk in which he resigned.” The article also included Van Schalkwyk’s press release stating his resignation and dismay at the lack of support he had received from Greg Vogt regarding the accusation.
I met with Van Schalkwyk today so as to hear his side of the story. He arrived with an unannounced Fran Kirsten whom my regular readers will recall i have little regard for. She said that she was there as his friend but later got entangled by saying she was the spokesperson. When she tried to dominate the conversation (which came across as managing the situation) i said i’d leave if the talking wasn’t primarily between me and Van Schalkwyk – after all, it was his story to tell and he was the primary subject.
Van Schalkwyk said that there was little space for his family at his home during the Knysna Oyster Festival so he’d made accommodation queries to Knysna Hollow. They mistakenly made out a R7000 quote to Knysna Tourism which was rectified. More importantly, there was never a payment as Van Schalkwyk chose to save money by squeezing his relatives into his home.
He showed me an email that cancelled the accommodation and then another that confirmed such. Both were dated July 1 2014. In a later phone call, a polite Stanileta Thysse, the bookings manager at Knysna Hollow, confirmed this.
So why did he not stand up for himself at the AGM? And why such an unclear press statement issued by him?
He said that he was shocked, overcome by emotion and feeling that he’d been betrayed. He added that even Tourism’s accountant, Randy, had burst into tears at the AGM. He said that he similarly erred in sharing his resignation letter with Ingrid Erlank, the editor of the KPH. It wasn’t meant to be a press release. But that seems odd considering that she is a journalist and surely publication is expected? So i checked with her and she agreed, saying that she had been given permission to publish.
Additionally, Van Schalkwyk said that not being “backed by a CEO [Vogt] of the organization in [such] a manner that I, as marketing manager, can have total trust in.” His attitude here could well have been the result of overwhelming emotions responding to a single act but it doesn’t fully explain why he added that the staff that night had “lost all confidence in the management and board of the organisation.” That implies a much longer build up of mistrust.
Kirsten said that an apology from Vogt was on the way, that she was in fact composing it based on information he’d given her. We may live in a world of copywriters but there is zero sincerity in someone else writing your apology. The written apology being sent seemed likely when Vogt made a comment online to Mark Allan (yes, my enemies seem to have relationships) that he had, “called Johan and apologised for not being clear enough about the allegation made being false. Johan should not have endured the accusation. It is really hard emotionally getting on in life with perceptions being created on mystery phone calls that have zero foundation, truth or merit. I know what it is like and I do not wish it on my worst enemy. I have issued a public apology to Johan.”
When i receive a copy of that apology, i will post it.
No matter the twists and turns, the mismanagement and hasty decisions, the main fact is that Johan van Schalkwyk is innocent. The situation is being managed so there’s a chance that he’ll be back in his position soon, again loyal to a pay cheque. If so, ironically, he and i will be back on the opposites side of the wall. That will be a pity.