/ 10 June 2018

‘This has never happened before’ ― new Knysna mayor amid DA tussle

Mark Willemse.
Mark Willemse.

New Knysna mayor Mark Willemse addressed supporters late on Friday night to assure them that he has not yet resigned from his post, amid unhappiness from his party, the Democratic Alliance.

Willemse was elected the new mayor on Wednesday in bizarre circumstances, after he and fellow DA councillor Peter Myers voted with an opposition-sponsored motion of no confidence in his predecessor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies.

READ MORE: Knysna DA councillors support opposition to oust mayor

The move shocked the provincial leadership, who flew out to Knysna on Friday evening to have a meeting with the party’s caucus.

During the meeting on Friday night, Willemse came out to address his supporters outside the venue, who had come out in numbers.

He assured them he was acting in the interests of growing frustration around service delivery in the town, itself recently beset by a ravaging fire exactly one year ago.

“I’m overwhelmed by your show of force to keep me as Mayor,” he told supporters, as seen in a video on Facebook and the Knysna-Plett Herald.

“We need to keep this force going. I’m not going to stand back,” he said to cheers and applause. “I’m not going to allow this process to be steam-rolled.

“The DA leadership is talking and trying to find solutions because this is unique; this has never happened in the country before. It has never happened where the ANC and the DA are working together for the good of a town.”

If all communities could follow Knysna’s example to work together, there would be greater service delivery throughout the country, he said.

“When a community pulls together, things can happen.”

He thanked the ANC and the DA supporters who were on his side, saying he was “enthralled by the support”.

He said they were going into further discussions with the DA, and he had not been pressured to do anything just yet.

A petition meanwhile has also been started in support of Willemse, asking him to stay on as mayor and requesting the DA steer clear from interfering in his appointment.

Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela told Eyewitness News on Saturday that the party wrote him a letter asking him to resign as the mayor.

Deputy mayor and COPE councillor Ricky van Aswegen, who was elected the same night, should act while they “corrected this”, Madikizela said.

Madikizela could not be reached for further comment after multiple attempts on Saturday.

He told News24 earlier this week that the move was “unacceptable” and had come with “no prior warning”.

He criticised Willemse’s and Myers’ reasoning that they were “voting with their conscience”.

“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.

They were confident they would get to the bottom of the issue after their engagements in the town.

News24 contacted Willemse’s office on Friday to ask him about his stance and the reasons for his decision. He declined to comment, mayoral office manager Priscilla September said. —News24