The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Knysna regrets the decision of the ANC Speaker to not permit the Council to consider an item that would have allowed the Knysna Council to become financially sustainable.
The item that was blocked by the ANC during yesterday’s Council meeting would have allowed the Western Cape Provincial Government to be requested to support Knysna Municipality with the development and implementation of a comprehensive support package. This support package would have included the development of plans relating to financial recovery, improvement in governance, administrative stability, and service delivery.
The ANC also refused to consider the approval of a request to the National Department of Cooperative Governance to support the Province with this support package.
In the same blocked item, there was also a recommendation that the Acting Municipal Manager, Dr. Michele Gratz, to be delegated all Council’s executive powers.
The approval of this would have had the same effect as Dr. Gratz being appointed as Administrator and would have allowed her to clean up the mess that the municipality is in – quickly and without unnecessary interference. The Chief Whip of the ANC, Cllr Claudine Croutz, however, made it clear that “the ANC will never give its power away”.
Dr. Gratz has shown herself to be highly competent and efficient. In a very short time, she has done an incredible job of turning the municipality around. The Knysna DA Caucus supports her effort and wants her to be given the power and authority she needs to finish what she has started.
The Knysna DA Caucus cannot accept the fact that the ANC Speaker will not allow this item to be considered by Council. The Knysna DA caucus members, therefore, walked out of the Council meeting, together with Cllr Ian Uys of the ACDP. This left Council without a quorum and unable to continue with the meeting, which included the approval of the annual budget.
The ANC has accused the DA of “playing politics” and not valuing the municipal staff by not approving the budget. The reality of the situation is in fact exactly the opposite.
The Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) has recently informed Council that it is not prepared to provide Knysna Municipality with an R71 million loan, which should have been provided on 2 June 2020. The reason for the DBSA’s refusal to disburse the loan is the fact that the Acting Municipal Manager and the Chief Financial Officer indicated their imminent resignations.
These resignations have caused the DBSA to view Knysna Municipality as far less stable and as a much higher repayment risk. The delegation of Council’s executive powers to Dr. Gratz and the securing of the Support Package would have provided the DBSA with the assurance that Knysna Municipality has stabilised, is on the right track, and will be able to repay its loan.
Without the DBSA loan, Knysna Municipality is unlikely to be able to pay either its creditors or its staff at the end of June. The ANC councilors clearly do not have the expertise to understand that it would be absurd to approve a budget that is based on the premise of an R71 million cash injection, which will no longer be received.
The DA in Knysna has been advised that it is legally impossible for the Western Cape Provincial Government to place Knysna Municipality under administration at this stage. The Knysna DA caucus furthermore acknowledges that it cannot continue walking out of Council meetings to try to bring the ANC to its senses.
We, therefore, implore the ANC to be sensible and to prioritise the best interests of Knysna residents, rather than clinging on to their own power and positions.