Greed and hypocrisy were evident, more than ever, at the Knysna Special Council Meeting held on January 12 2016.
To understand why i have that opinion, we need to first step back to the last Council meeting of 2015.
The contentious issue then was the ISDF, the 30-year plan for Knysna and the request for more money for the controversial tender winners. DA Councillor Peter Myers rightfully requested that answers should be delivered to a Special Council Meeting early in January 2016. Speaker Eleonor Spies, his fellow DA councillor, strangely denied his request despite municipal employees (again) being unable to answer questions they should have being able to answer i.e. it seemed like a delay tactic. Despite it being an important issue, Spies reckoned there was no need for a Special Council Meeting as an Ordinary Council Meeting was scheduled to be held two weeks later.
– a Special Council Meeting was called, posted on the Knysna Municipality’s Facebook one day before but with no agenda given. On the Municipality’s website, it wasn’t placed on the Calendar but, if you dug deep into the website, the agenda was uploaded and said that there were two issues to be discussed:
1.The new ward map and political posts.
2. Acknowledgement of the upper limit salary increases for politicians.
It became the shortest Knysna Council Meeting i can recall, maybe historic, observed by only me, a man i didn’t recognise, and the Knysna-Plett Herald’s Christo Vermaak.
When Councillors were asked, as by law, if any had any interests in the agenda (and thus should ask to be excused), Dyanti, obviously referring to their expected pay increase, jokingly (but truthfully) said, “I think all of us have an interest in this agenda.”
The first point was so quick to be approved (must have been seconds) that i never noticed, having to ask a staff member afterwards why it hadn’t been voted on.
The second point, the salary increases for those sitting in that room, took minutes, only because COPE Councillor Elrick Van Aswegen’s intended sincerity was transformed into another comedy moment.
“I remain of the opinion that full-time councillors are earning enough,” stated Van Aswegen, “but part-time councillors need the increase the most…. so I support that.”
“He’s always out of order,” laughed Dyanti.
Van Aswegen made a motion supporting his opinion but for it to be voted on it it needed a seconder. With the seconder being deathly silence, it could not be carried.
Elrick van Aswegen’s attempt to appear to be a reasonable, caring man was totally overshadowed by reality. DA Mayor Georlene Wolmarans, in one of the greatest twists in local politics, reshuffled her powerful Mayoral Committee (MAYCO) in May 2015. She replaced one of her own DA members, Ray Barrell, with Van Aswegen, a member of the opposition.
The reality, in context, is that Elrick van Aswegen’s annual salary has potentially risen from R215 548 to R568 510 i.e. the man who can receive a R352 962 increase is the guy saying part-time councillors deserve an increase but not full-time councillors like him. How could he not have been considered to have already had an increase?
The ISDF, which most affects the public, was given a back seat. The salary increase, which most affects the politicians, took the front seat.
More shocking is that the death of an on-duty municipal employee and a hit-by-a-car traffic officer didn’t even make the agenda. Instead, the Special Council Meeting mood was one of happy back-slapping.
I choked on their laughter, unable to swallow it.
Political hypocrisy, dear readers, can never be a friend of the public… especially in a mostly poor town such as Knysna.
You can download the agenda here or view the new salaries at ‘Get Rich or Die Voting (Knysna’s Politicians & Their Salary Increases Ain’t Hip-Hop)’.