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Public Protector clears Premier Winde of improper conduct over Oudtshoorn municipality

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Friday cleared Western Cape Premier Alan Winde of improper conduct involving allegations that he breached the Executive Ethics Code.

This centres around allegations that Winde had failed to act on serious claims made against Western Cape local government MEC, Anton Bredell, by the former mayor of the Oudtshoorn Local Municipality, Colan Sylvester.

The Good party’s member of the provincial Legislature (MPL), Brett Herron, lodged the complaint with Mkhwebane’s office in July last year against the premier and the MEC.

The allegations
He alleged that in March 2019, Sylvester alerted Bredell to several allegations of maladministration, fraud, corruption and financial misconduct at the municipality in a letter. But Bredell only responded to the letter on 22 January 2020 after the mayor had commissioned an independent investigation into the allegations.

Herron also claimed that on 12 December 2019, Bredell addressed the municipality’s DA councillors proposing that they should agree to the Western Cape government placing Oudtshoorn under administration.

Bredell allegedly told the DA councillors: “My suggestion is that we, that you, as Oudtshoorn’s council ‘cause you’re the majority, you’re the council, you ask that we put you under administration [sic].”

Sylvester apparently complained about this to Winde in a letter on 6 March 2020.

Herron believes that the premier was obligated to conduct an inquiry into Bredell’s conduct regarding the allegations in terms of the Executive Ethics Code.

It was further alleged that on 23 June 2020, Winde told Parliament’s oversight committee on cooperative governance that it was “perfectly legal” for Bredell to have a political agreement with DA councillors only on the proposal to place a municipality under administration.

Herron complained to the public protector that Winde’s remarks in this regard were improper and in violation of the Executive Ethics Code. But Mkhwebane found that the allegations against the premier were not substantiated.

“The truth of the matter is that premier Winde requested and obtained a comprehensive response from MEC Bredell on the allegations and decided that there was no reasonable basis for further action by his office,” Mkhwebane said at a press conference on Friday in Tshwane.

Winde’s remarks in Parliament ‘improper’
Regarding Winde’s remarks to Parliament’s portfolio committee on cooperative governance, the public protector found that his statements were indeed improper.

“The statements made by the premier to the portfolio committee supporting the conduct of the MEC were not in accordance with the Constitution and legislation regulating the intervention by a provincial government in a municipality and even the practice of political negotiation and agreement as submitted by him,” Mkhwebane said.

She said Winde’s statements were not in the best interest of good governance and not consistent with what is expected of a person in the position of a premier.

“He, therefore, acted in breach of section 136(2) (b) of the Constitution and paragraphs 2.1(c) and (d), and 2.3(c) of the Executive Ethics Code.

“Section 136(2) (b) of the Constitution provides that members of the executive council of a province may not ‘act in any way that is inconsistent with their office, or expose themselves to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and private interests.”

To remedy the breach of the Executive Ethics Code, Mkhwebane said President Cyril Ramaphosa must in terms of
section 3(5)(2)(b) of the Executive Members’ Ethics Act submit a copy of her report and any comments contained in it to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) within a reasonable time, but no later than 14 days after receiving the report.

-The Citizen

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