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Northern Cape municipality in disarray

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Independent candidate Willem Jouke van Bergen, who was voted in as the Siyancuma municipal mayor earlier this month, has lamented the failure of the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs to intervene in removing the previous mayor and Speaker.

Newly-elected Siyacuma mayor Willem Jouke van Bergen. Picture: Siyacuma Local Municipality

INDEPENDENT candidate Willem Jouke van Bergen, who was voted in as the Siyancuma municipal mayor earlier this month, has lamented the failure of the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta) to intervene in removing the previous mayor and Speaker.

A request was also made to the MEC for Coghsta to place the municipality under administration.

Van Bergen indicated that a motion of no confidence was brought against both the Speaker, Johannes George, and mayor, Patrick Mcklein, who were both ANC councillors, by the EFF.

“The majority of councillors requested the Speaker and the acting municipal manager, as well as the MEC for Coghsta, Bently Vass, to convene a special council meeting. The ousted Speaker refused to call a special council meeting after numerous requests, instructions and petitions were submitted.”

He indicated that the former Speaker circulated a letter on May 9 informing councillors that the municipality would be placed on recess.

“This was done without a council resolution.”

He added that threats were made to take legal action against the EFF councillor, if the meeting took place or if the former mayor and Speaker were removed.

“The new Speaker, DA councillor Lemfia van Niekerk, who was elected as the Speaker on June 4, consequently issued the notice for the special council meeting, where the motion of no confidence was passed.”

The MEC for Coghsta was in April requested to investigate a suspected fraudulent document calling for a special council meeting and nullify their removal.

Councillors alleged that their signatures on the notice to convene the special council meeting for a motion of no confidence in the mayor, councillor McKlein, and Speaker, councillor George, were forged.

Van Bergen stated that the acting municipal manager was advised that the signatures appeared to be fraudulent.

“A commitment was made to utilise an expert to verify the signatures and lay criminal charges with the SAPS. However, no feedback was given to the councillors.”

He added that attorneys were appointed to initiate the breach of code of conduct charges against the councillors.

“However it was discovered that the owner and sole director of the firm of attorneys is the business partner of the consultant hired in the Office of the Mayor.”

Van Bergen disputed that the signatures were forced, copied or pasted on the letter.

“Each councillor signed on his or her own behalf. The Speaker was given the platform to question the councillors if their signatures were indeed forged although he never asked them.”

He indicated that a consultant who was appointed in the Office of the Mayor was a former municipal manager who was convicted of fraud and theft in the Eastern Cape.

“The consultant in the Office of the Mayor is in charge of the erf allocation programme in ward 4, Bongani, in the new establishment called New Park. He also indicated that he wrote correspondence on behalf of the mayor and the Speaker because of his expertise and experience in local government.”

Van Bergen said no action was ever taken against municipal officials Boitumelo Sehako and Sonja Morolong, who are currently serving sentences on various charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering.

“They worked for the municipality until they were sentenced. The only way we can confirm whether they are still on the payroll is for the new mayor and Speaker to convene their duties. Thus far they have been blocked by the former mayor and Speaker who are refusing to vacate office.”

A spokesperson for the MEC for Coghsta, Babalwa Mzambo, said the department held a meeting with the municipal council on June 7 to address, among other issues, the motion of no confidence in the mayor and Speaker.

“According to the Speaker, he did not refuse to call a council meeting, since the majority of councillors requested the council meeting.

“The Speaker responded that the motion of no confidence against the mayor and Speaker would be addressed at a council meeting on July 17, as he is in the process of investigating a possible breach of the code of conduct against councillors.”

She stated that they are not able to elaborate on matters that are under investigation.

“The MEC cannot investigate fraudulent matters while the Speaker is in the process of investigating but will instead wait for the report to be tabled in council and submitted to his office.”

Mzambo added that a meeting that was held on June 7, declared that the council meeting where the mayor and Speaker were removed on June 4 was unlawful.

“Currently, there is only one mayor and Speaker at Siyancuma Local Municipality. Unfortunately, the department can not express its view on the consultant serving in the Office of the Mayor.”

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