Cape chaos: Now Morkel steps aside

Embattled Cape Town unicity mayor Gerald Morkel on Monday announced he would assume a lower public profile until his name could be cleared, but that he would remain in office.

Morkel told reporters in Cape Town he would hand over ceremonial duties to his deputy Belinda Walker and to unicity speaker Danny de la Cruz.

Morkel is at the centre of claims that the DA received more than R1-million in donations from alleged German fraudster Jurgen Harksen.

Morkel, who is also the DA’s leader in the Western Cape, is reportedly under investigation by the Scorpions.

At a press conference, he said he had instructed his attorney to prepare a charge of perjury against Harksen.

“In other circumstances I would have been happy to have taken a leave of absence, while my innocence was being established, but as it is, the city is in the process of finalising its budget and rates policy, and I cannot walk away from my responsibilities in this regard.

“However, in order to ensure that I have the time to deal responsibly with these important matters, I have today decided to hand over, for the time being, all ceremonial mayoral duties to the deputy mayor and the speaker.”

He had also asked DA provincial chairman Theuns Botha to help him in his responsibilities as DA Western Cape leader.

Morkel said this would give him time to help with the speedy completion of the forensic audit of his personal accounts and to prepare himself to refute the allegations that had been made at the Desai Commission.

Morkel has consistently refused to quit and has also rejected pressure from his party to take long leave until the issue can be resolved. This was despite the resignation last week of his deputy provincial leader Hennie Bester.

Bester said politics in the province was not being conducted in a manner that he was willing to participate in.

His resignation came hours after suspended Absa bank official Erik Marais told the Desai Commission he had converted 99 000 Deutschemarks into rands at Morkel’s behest.

On Monday, Werner Schwella, a former chief secretary of the DA in the Western Cape, told the Desai Commission how he had handled a 99 000 Deutschemarks donation for the party.

Although he was not told where the money came from, he suspected it was from Harksen, or alleged Mafia boss Vito Palazzolo.

Schwella said that on Morkel’s instructions he collected the money, in a white envelope, from then finance MEC Leon Markovitz in about August last year and then handed it on to Marais.

The DA in an attempt at damage control last week announced that it had opened its books for a forensic audit and that Morkel and Markovitz had also agreed to open theirs.

An internal commission of inquiry into the matter is also to report back by Wednesday. - Sapa

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