It's criminal, not whistleblowing – De Lille hits back at executive director’s claims

De Lille's response to Kesson's affidavit has shed even more light on major divisions fracturing the City of Cape Town's top tier of staffers. (David Harrison/M&G)

De Lille's response to Kesson's affidavit has shed even more light on major divisions fracturing the City of Cape Town's top tier of staffers. (David Harrison/M&G)

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille says “false” disclosures by the executive director in her office, who has made damaging claims against her, cannot be viewed as the actions of a whistleblower but are instead a criminal offence.

She also believes Craig Kesson leaked information and claims against her to certain politicians which “is suggestive of a political campaign”.

De Lillie issued a 22-page response on Wednesday in response to a 42-page affidavit by Kesson which became public last Tuesday.

“It is unfortunately not correct that Mr Kesson acts in good faith and without animosity towards the people he vilifies in his affidavit,” she said.

“His affidavit itself does not request any outcome. It is either a politically motivated attempt to embarrass me, or an attempt to contrive protection as a supposed whistleblower.”

Kesson, in his affidavit, said he was making the sworn statement under the protections afforded by the Protected Disclosures Act and the city’s whistleblowing policy.

However, De Lille brushed this side.

‘Criminal offence’

“I am advised that the disclosure of false information purportedly under the legislation which he involves is a criminal offence,” she said.

“That falls under the jurisdiction of other authorities. I have been notified that other individuals aggrieved by Mr Kesson’s false affidavit have independently reported the matter to the statutorily designated authority.”

De Lille’s response to Kesson’s affidavit has shed even more light on major divisions fracturing the City of Cape Town’s top tier of staffers.

Kesson’s affidavit made various allegations against De Lille, including that she planned to publicly discredit a senior city staffer who questioned alleged tender irregularities and asked that a report into a possible R43-million loss regarding another tender be made to “go away”.

Last Tuesday, the council held a special confidential meeting and unanimously resolved that the City’s audit and performance audit committee be instructed to appoint an independent investigator to probe allegations against Kesson, city manager Achmat Ebrahim and Melissa Whitehead, the commissioner of the transport and urban development authority.

‘Attack on my integrity’

Kesson’s affidavit said De Lille had in November threatened to have him suspended “for improperly investigating the conduct of the city manager”.

De Lille’s response on Wednesday said this was false.“To a great extent Mr Kesson’s affidavit relies on allegations against others to attack my integrity,” she said.

De Lille said she had told Kesson she planned to recommend his precautionary suspension and those of Ebrahim and Whitehead pending any investigation into them.“I thought the water crisis justified the most expeditious investigation, which could be facilitated by suspension,” she said referring to the current drought in the Western Cape.

De Lille said the officials responsible for advising the council on whether there was a legal basis for a suspension had said this was the case only with Kesson. 

City cannot be ‘held ransom by employees’ Kesson’s affidavit said on September 5 he found out that one of Whitehead’s directors, Frank Cummings, who served on the bid evaluation committee of the Foreshore Freeway tender process, had lodged a grievance against her.Cummings’ grievance backed other allegations that Whitehead allegedly preferred a particular bidder from early in the process.“The mayor was made to understand that there was a possibility of Mr Cummings making his grievance public,” 

Kesson’s affidavit said.“When the matter of Mr Cumming’s grievance arose, the mayor stated that she would give a press conference and discredit him politically that same day. 

Mr Cummings has since left the city’s employment.“Kesson said De Lille instructed that Cummings’ employment be terminated.On Wednesday these allegations were dismissed by De Lille.

“I did not say this.
It is not suggested that I did any of this, whether on the same day or on any other day,” she said.

“What I actually said was that the City cannot be held to ransom by employees, least of all any who are under probation, who threaten to leak information to the press.”

Last week De Lille issued a statement saying the claims by Kesson amounted to an attempted attack on her history as a whistleblower.

“As it pertains to the affidavit, this is a malicious attempt to attack my integrity and track record as a whistleblower and corruption fighter in South Africa,” she had said. —News24

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