The battle for the future of Knysna sunk to new lows this week with the Knysna-Plett Herald publishing biased reporting as well as the lies of Mayor Georlene Wolmarans and Knysna Municipality Spokesperson Christopher Bezuidenhout.
The ISDF is the mother of all plans that will determine the future of our town and the 72 000 of us who live here. My article, sardine-packed with facts, was seen by over 100 000 on Facebook. I was thankful for the views of this important issue but the real goal was to explain a complicated story simply to journalists. I emailed that, supporting documents and links to every relevant newspaper.
The Cape Times posted Flawed Knysna Tender ‘To Go Ahead as a front page article today (December 14 2015) and the Weekend Argus aimed with Knysna’s Future Change Now Cauldron of Dissent [view these at http://wp.me/p1z0hX-15L].
Negatively and bizarrely, the Editor of the Knysna-Plett Herald, Elaine King, responded with:
“I read what you write with interest, but I do not report to you as to when or how we report on anything.“
I did not tell her when or how to write. She was sent the same detailed and helpful information as the other news outlets (background, my article, government’s investigation, contacts and my submission to the National Council of Provinces).
More than any other media, i would expect the Knysna-Plett Herald, followed closely by The Edge and CX-Press, to be interested in one of the biggest stories affecting our town – why weren’t they and why did she react the way she did?
Furthermore, King CCied Nicole Moolman (Director of Group Editors which owns a number of newspapers, including the KPH) and Christo Vermaak (KPH reporter) – again, WHY?
I responded with:
“You were submitted information on one of the biggest stories affecting our town (and possibly the biggest scandal of the year).
Your response was odd even before you CCied others.
It’s the oft encountered KPH/Group Editor wall where i’m involved.
Another may have responded with, “Thanks, I’ll look into it.” You may even have found my article valuable input.”
She never responded.
My wondering whether the Knysna-Plett Herald is compromised was sent into overdrive over a week later.
The Knysna Municipality, in response to the ISDF revelations, called a press conference. For our normally non-communicative local government to do so was extraordinary. Apparently, the only two newspapers to attend were the KPH and The Edge. It would have been unusual to expect national newspapers to fly in (which makes it odd that no press release was issued). I wasn’t invited.
Although the KPH stated that Deputy Mayor Esme Edge was one of those answering the questions, there isn’t a single mention of her in the rest of the article. I state it here as it may become relevant to a future article.
Subsequently, the Knysna-Plett Herald issued an article in its Dec 10 2015 issue that must be considered as propaganda, akin to the nonsense that was published on the DA’s cheer-leading Facebook page, Knysna Knews (that will be dealt with separately).
The article header was Mayoral Clarity on ISDF Concerns. The definition of “clarity” is defined by the Macmillan Dictionary as “the quality of being clear and easy to understand”.
Why did the KPH choose that description when, as you read on, it clearly wasn’t.
Why did the KPH control the narrative, as one does with public relations (previously called propaganda), instead of simply reporting?
KPH: “At Monday’s meeting, Knysna executive mayor Georlene Wolmarans, executive deputy mayor Esme Edge, communications manager Christopher Bezuidenhout and [Municipal Manager Grant] Easton took the floor to answer questions on the ISDF issue with complete transparency.”
Again, they’re not reporting but rather planting an idea. They chose to label the process as completely transparent when, considering all the information they have, it’s impossible to say so. Furthermore, repetition plants ideas deeper i.e. “transparency” is a synonym for “clarity”, the word they used in their header.
Despite mentioning her several times, the KPH did not contact activist Susan Campbell with their queries or for comment. How could they not contact the expert of the opposition?
The KPH did not contact me, Mike Hampton, with their queries or for comment. Furthermore, they deliberately removed my name, leaving me mentioned obliquely as “social media” and as a “one-sided biased columnist””. They also left out that i’d contacted them and ignored the fact that i made the report very public after receiving it from Susan Campbell (who had gained it from the Public Protector). Again, they’re controlling the story rather than reporting it.
Now to naming the lie.
KPH reports that Mayor Georlene Wolmarans stated: “I’m very concerned about all this going around on social media. I believe it works both ways. If an allegation is made against somebody, then the media must ask for that person’s response as well.”
On November 30 2015, i had sent Wolmarans and Bezuidenhout these queries:
I’ll be posting an article on the ISDF and the full report from Bredell’s office. So that there’s input from all sides, please would you answer all the following by 10am tomorrow, Dec 1:
a. Why did you, Mayor Georlene Wolmarans, state to Council that Grant Easton’s appointment would be delayed until you gained the full ISDF report… but then went ahead and appointed him without it?
b. Why did you not investigate locally, instead delaying for such a long period… and then requesting that Province do so?
c. Why did the email from Bredell, with the summarised report, said that the full report was attached. Why did you not make it public?
d. If you say that it wasn’t attached, in consideration of the importance of the ISDF and the delay it’s caused the Planning department, why did you not move sea and mountains to obtain the report?
e. It seems as if big business, interest groups and Province comes before our town? If you deny that, please explain in the context of the ISDF tender and Knysna Tourism scandals which the DA, as our leaders, have failed to sufficiently address.
f. Now that ‘Bredell’s’ report has been made public, what is your reaction and intended action?
g. If the contract with Knysna Creative Heads is cancelled, how will the millions already spent be retrieved?
NB: Despite many requests, my mike at loveknysna dot com edress remains banned. Will you personally ensure that is unbanned and guarantee that open communication will be encouraged between the DA, Knysna Municipality and me?
I sent it from my Knysna Keep address which has been unbanned but may as well be banned as i cannot get answers from anyone in our local government.
Amplifying Wolmaran’s dishonesty is the fact that i sent queries and requests regards the ISDF before. She and the Council of politicians have always chosen not to answer.
The KPH also neglected to mentioned that my article, which they received, clearly stated:
“As at the 10am deadline today, Premier Helen Zille, Chris Mulder (KCH/CMAI) and Marike Vreken (KCH/Marike Vreken Town Planning) had not responded to queries sent. Bredell’s office was previously asked to respond by Monday but, at their request, it was extended til Tuesday… but they also never responded.”
Considering how big the topic is, i find it hard to believe that the KPH were unaware that when MEC Anton Bredell’s office finally responded, it passed the entire buck onto Knysna Municipality.
Mayor Wolmarans made that a perfectly useless circle when she passed it back, claiming not to have had the full report. Why did the KPH not ask her:
- How could you not have the full report when Bredell’s email to you said it was attached? [under the previous editor, Ingrid Erlank, it was reported)?
- How could you say that the appointment of Grant Easton as Municipal Manager was dependent on receiving the full report from Bredell yet, next Council meeting, you appointed him anyway? The same man you have brought with you to this press conference.
- How can you not have pursued and gained the full report in 13 months?
- As we reported, you have met with Bredell this year. Why did you not get the report then? Or, if he wouldn’t give it to you, tell us why?
The fact is that my article, Campbell’s report and Bredell’s departments report were question ammunition for an AK-47 reporter tried to hit a broken bus – why were the questions, overall, so limited? Why was the questioner so accepting of answers that rang empty?
As the Knysna Municipality has done before, they tried to dress their response in their “clean audit”. The Auditor General did not investigate as Easton implies. This went unquestioned despite the very same KPH journalist, Christo Vermaak, having published an article, earlier this year, about the audit, that was entitled ISDF One of Eight Questionable Tenders.
Why is the Knysna-Plett Herald, under the watch of Elaine King, committing such journalistic heresy? Is it possible that the advertising monies they’re receiving from Knysna Municipality, increased by Easton after the last editor forced out, is clouding their integrity? Can any newspaper be free of suspicion if they’re receiving money from those they report on or choose not to report on?
This is not a standalone case. In the new year, i’ll be posting a fool report, along with a submission to the Press Ombudsman, questioning the newspaper’s conduct towards me and Knysna issues over the past 4-and-a-half-years.
It’s best to finish this blog with the same quote the KPH used as their ending. Christopher Bezuidenhout rammed home the Knysna Municipality’s callousness by describing objectors as, “people who suffer from the Nimby [not in my backyard] syndrome and do not foresee a better future for Knysna.”
In my opinion, the only people looking for a “better future for Knysna” are those fighting the current administration.
You can comment on this article on Facebook.