GEORGE NEWS AND VIDEO - An urgent motion by the DA demanding George Municipal Manager Trevor Botha's "precautionary suspension" was carried in Council last Friday.
Botha has until tomorrow, Friday 20 September, to provide reasons to prevent his suspension.
Since all the motions dealt with at last week's meeting followed after a confidential item on the agenda, the actual proceedings were not witnessed by the public or the media. ANC Chief Whip Nomawethu Jantjies-Gushman confirmed that her party, as well as the EFF, PBI and SAC left the council chambers, calling the motion "illegal". The FF Plus and ACDP supported the motion.
Various allegations, including financial misconduct, led to the tabling of the motion. In the run-up to the motion, Local Government MEC Anton Bredell ordered an investigation into the municipality's affairs which led to a public spat between Botha and Bredell through the issuing of various media statements.
DA Chief Whip Marlene Barnardt confirmed Council's decision and said Mayor Melvin Naik tabled the motion in which Botha was given seven calendar days to react.
The DA's constituency head in George, Geordin Hill-Lewis, said the decision to take action against the MM was made by the DA caucus in George, "with good reason". He said the DA leadership supports the decision of the caucus. "We are keen to see George returned to stability as soon as possible."
In a press briefing on Monday, Jantjies-Gushman said the opposition parties recorded their names against the motion, "because should the MM not be found guilty, everyone who participated in that motion can be held financially liable in their personal capacity".
She said the ANC walk-out was not in solidarity with Botha, but because they believe that the same disciplinary procedure used in the suspension of the Chief Financial Officer, Keith Jordaan, should have been followed in this case.
PBI leader Virgill Gericke spoke out against the immediate suspension of Botha, reminding Council that everyone, including the MM, has the right to give their version of events before they can be suspended.
The ANC also questioned the legality of the motion, arguing that it was introduced by the mayor and carried by Councillor Leon van Wyk. According to the disciplinary procedures for senior managers, it must be the executive mayor that tables any allegation against the municipal manager.
However, Naik maintains that he did carry the motion himself. "It was a caucus decision that Councillor Van Wyk would elaborate on the motion," he says.
A request for comment from Bredell on Council's decision was answered by a spokesperson saying "he is at this point unable to comment, as this is an ongoing investigation. He will release a statement in due course".
Municipal spokesperson Chantel Edwards-Klose replied to enquiries on the procedures followed in Council. "In terms of Rule 32.1 of the Rules of Order of Council, a councillor may introduce a motion of exigency on any matter which does not appear on the agenda and of which no previous notice was given. There was therefore nothing wrong with the manner in which the motion was introduced," she said.
Watch a video below.
In response to a remark from the opposition about changes made to the motion by Council's legal advisor, Johan van Schalkwyk, Edwards-Klose said, "There were a few errors in the wording of the recommendation to Council and which were amended and accepted by Council."
According to information, the DA's initial motion asked for the immediate suspension of Botha. This has been amended to a "precautionary suspension", providing Botha a week for representations.
Edwards-Klose said Council will meet after the expiry of the seven days given to Botha for written representations before a final decision on his suspension is taken. This will be a closed meeting as the regulations on financial misconduct stipulate that any allegation of financial misconduct must be treated confidentially.
Botha did not respond to a request for comment.
In another motion tabled by Jantjies-Gushman, the ANC asks for an explanation as to why DA Councillor Cecil Noble has been allowed to accumulate electricity debt of roughly R38 000. This item will serve at an ordinary council meeting on 31 October.
A confidential item on the "Brasika Report", a damning report from 2017 which points out R148-million worth of alleged unauthorised expenditure and allegations of financial misconduct in the GIPTN (George Integrated Public Transport Network), also served at the last meeting. The opposition is unhappy that they only received a section of the report. It was decided to refer the item back to serve again at a special council meeting, on a date yet to be confirmed.
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