Knysna DA councillors support opposition to oust mayor

Eleanore Bouw-Spies (Knysna Herald)

Eleanore Bouw-Spies (Knysna Herald)

Internal divisions in the DA are continuing to play out at municipalities in the Western Cape after members in the Knysna municipality broke ranks to vote out their own mayor.

Former mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies was voted out on Wednesday by an ANC-sponsored motion supported by two DA councillors – Mark Willemse and former deputy mayor Peter Myers.

Seven DA councillors walked out of the special council sitting before the vote, with the exception of Willemse and Myers, while speaker Georlene Wolmarans was the only DA councillor to vote against the motion, the Knysna Herald reported. The motion passed by 11 votes to one.

Wolmarans then recused herself from voting in a new mayor.

The move has shocked the DA’s provincial leadership, which was caught unaware by its members’ plan to support the opposition motion. 

READ MORE: Will the real DA please stand up?

The DA, however, remains in charge of the Southern Cape municipality as Willemse, who is also the speaker of the broader Eden district, was elected mayor. COPE councillor Ricky van Aswegen was elected his deputy.

Urgent Friday meeting

DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela told News24 that the move was “unacceptable” and came with “no prior warning”.

“Their reasons given were that they were ‘voting with their conscience’. But you can’t vote with your conscience if you have a direct interest in the result,” he said on Thursday.

He and other provincial leaders will be going to Knysna on Friday to have an urgent meeting with the caucus and the two councillors to ascertain exactly what had happened, and why the councillors voted with the opposition.

He did not want to pre-empt the outcome of the meeting, but repeated that their actions were “unacceptable”.

READ MORE: Editorial — DA at a critical juncture

Willemse could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday. He was expected to be commemorating the anniversary of the Knysna fires at various events in the town on Thursday.

Section 3.5 of the DA’s constitution says that canvassing members to support an opposition party could result in the cessation of membership.

Standing against an official candidate of the DA in any public election could also result in that member getting the boot.

Fourth DA mayor in recent weeks

Bouw-Spies is among several DA mayors in the province to face motions of no confidence recently.

Former Berg River mayor Evert Manuel resigned two weeks ago ahead of a motion of no confidence against him in council, after he lost the confidence of his DA caucus in an internal vote.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille is currently fighting her removal from the party in the Western Cape High Court, after she too lost the confidence of her DA caucus, but survived a motion of no confidence in the Cape Town city council.

Matzikama Mayor Rhenda Stephan’s future hangs in the balance as her caucus also voted against her in an internal motion. The DA’s federal executive will consider the request to remove Stephan at its next meeting this month.

READ MORE: Maimane betrayed me – De Lille

The three motions, however, came with the blessing of their respective DA caucuses, whereas Bouw-Spies had the full confidence of the DA, Madikizela said.

Myers himself lost his position as deputy mayor in the council in October last year. He remained a councillor.

The DA’s troubles in the province have not seen it escape unharmed at the polls.

The party recently retained slim majorities in two wards in Saldanha Bay and Oudtshoorn, having lost 17% and 10% support in those wards respectively. It also lost 11% in a George by-election, and 9% in a Breede Valley by-election in April. — News 24

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