From the Knysna Ratepayers Association Facebook page

From the Knysna Ratepayers Association Facebook page.


In his public interactions in Belvidere and Brenton on Saturday, DA Premier Alan Winde said that the ongoing conflicts in Knysna’s governing party were basically due to Mark Willemse’s refusal to resign as mayor after both he and Michelle Wasserman went through the DA’s mayoral selection process, and Wasserman won. Winde said that he himself had abided by the outcome of a DA selection process for premier, and had even threatened to take legal action when others failed to abide by it, implying that if Willemse had only followed his example and abided by the outcome of the DA’s mayoral selection process, all of the DA’s woes in Knysna could have been avoided.

Either Winde is uninformed, or he is being disingenuous.

To understand what actually happened, one must know that the DA mayoral selection process does not select the town’s mayor, rather, it only selects the DA’s chosen candidate for mayor. The mayor is actually elected by the full Council from the candidates nominated by each party. The DA selection process only becomes relevant when the mayorship falls vacant. It is important to note that this so-called Mayoral Selection Process is an internal Party process that is not required by law. The mayor is elected by Council and that is the end of it. 

After Willemse voted his conscience and Eleanor Bouw-Spies was removed as mayor on 6 June 2018, the position of mayor became vacant. When the vote came for the election of a new mayor, Bouw-Spies walked out of the meeting and the remaining DA Councillors followed, leaving it up to any other party to nominate a candidate of their choice.  Willemse was the only Councillor nominated for the position of mayor (by Peter Myers, a DA member who acted on the instructions of MEC Anton Bredell, the Chairman of the DA Provincial Executive Council). Since none of the other parties nominated an alternative candidate, Willemse was the uncontested candidate for mayor and by default, in terms of our legislation, became mayor. 

The DA then initiated disciplinary proceedings against him, claiming that he had failed to vote with his caucus, and the DA Provincial Executive Committee decided, among other things, that he must resign as mayor. 

However, Willemse appealed that decision to the DA’s Federal Legal Commission (“FLC”). While his appeal was pending, the DA proposed that he undergo their mayoral candidate selection process, even though he was still the lawfully-elected mayor and would remain so unless and until he lost his appeal. Willemse made it very clear at the outset that his participation in the selection process was “without prejudice” and subject to the outcome of his appeal. In other words, he would only abide by the outcome of the DA’s mayoral candidate selection process if he lost his appeal, and the mayorship then fell vacant. If the FLC upheld his appeal, he would be vindicated, there would be no opening in the mayorship, and he would remain as mayor, regardless.

Thus, although Councillor Wasserman reportedly outscored Willemse in the DA’s mayoral candidate selection process, that process became irrelevant when Willemse was vindicated by winning his appeal to the FLC on 1 November 2018. Wasserman merely won the right to be the DA’s chosen candidate for mayor the next time an election for mayor had to be held. It has to be said that none of the assessments and tests alluded to by Winde were followed in the DA mayoral selection process, which involved nothing but a relatively short interview, before a panel headed by James Selfe, who was clearly biased against Willemse.

Since Willemse won his appeal, no election for mayor had to be held, and Willemse remains as the mayor lawfully chosen by Council. So Premier Winde’s explanation of what happened, and who is at fault, is simply… wrong. Willemse, who enjoys wide support from Knysna’s various communities, has every right to continue as mayor.

Oh, and incidentally, Michelle Wasserman is not the “mayor-elect”. A mayor-elect is someone who has been elected mayor, but has not yet been sworn in. Wasserman has not been elected mayor: she has not even been a candidate in an election for mayor. She is  merely the DA’s preferred candidate should the opportunity for the election of a mayor present itself. Or, as Jimmy Cliff put it, Michelle has still got: many rivers to cross…

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