MEC Anton Bredell appoints committee to investigate alleged misconduct of Municipal Councillors in Knysna Local Municipality

Minister Anton Bredell appoints a committee to investigate several councillors in Knysna Local Municipality for breaches of the Code of Conduct for Municipal Councillors

Anton Bredell, Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning has appointed a committee to investigate breaches of the Code of Conduct for Councillors in accordance with his powers under Item 16(5)-(8) of the Code.

On 25 November 2022, the Western Cape High Court delivered judgment in the matter Julie Lopes and Another v Speaker of the Knysna Local Municipality and 17 Others, case number 19228/2022. On a review of the judgment, it is evident that the court made several serious adverse findings against certain councillors in the municipality which relate to their decision to unlawfully create positions in the office of political office bearers in the municipality, their decision to irregularly authorise the appointment of persons to those positions, and their subsequent decision to authorise payment to the persons appointed, Minister Bredell said.

Of particular concern is the court’s finding that the implicated councillors took these decisions despite obtaining legal advice from an external law firm advising against it. In this regard, the conduct of the Deputy Mayor and other councillors was found to be particularly egregious. Among others, Judge Henney ruled that certain averments the Deputy Mayor made under oath in his affidavit were “dishonest”, “clearly contradicted by evidence”, and “a clear indication that he was trying to mislead the court as to the true facts”.

“Ultimately, the court ruled that the unlawful conduct of the Executive Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, the members of the governing coalition, and certain senior municipal officials was in direct contravention of the heightened duty that rests on public officials in the exercise of their functions in government,” Minister Bredell said.

“In light of the number of councillors that have been implicated, I was advised that it would be inappropriate for the municipality to establish a special committee of the Municipal Council to conduct such an investigation in terms of Item 15(5) of the Code of Conduct, as the majority of councillors forming the governing coalition are themselves implicated in the court’s judgment. Given that all those implicated would have to recuse themselves to avoid conflicts of interest, the Municipal Council itself would not have sufficient members to form a quorum to establish a special committee or to make a decision following on any such investigation in accordance with item 16(2) of the Code,” Minister Bredell said.

“In the circumstances, to avoid the adverse implications associated with an actual, or even potential, conflict of interest, I have found it justified to exercise my powers under item 16(5)-(8) of the Code and appoint an independent committee to investigate the alleged breach of the Code and to make recommendations to me on the appropriate remedial action and/or sanctions in terms of subitem 16(2) of the Code.”

The Municipality has duly been notified of my decision to appoint an external committee to initiate an investigation in terms of the Code. This committee comprises of an advocate of the Cape Bar and an independent forensic investigator. The committee is independent, impartial, and will at all times conduct the investigation in a lawful and procedurally fair manner. All persons implicated in the judgment will be afforded an opportunity to engage with the committee on its findings before the committee makes a recommendation to me on any appropriate remedial actions or sanctions, Minister Bredell stated.

“It is of utmost importance that the investigation receives the municipality’s full cooperation and I look forward to the speedy resolution of the matter in the interest of good governance in the municipality,” Minster Bredell said.

Source: Government of South Africa