WC PREMIER WINDE DEFENDS HIS MEC AS EVIDENCE OF ANOTHER DA COUNCILLOR LINKED TO ELECTRICITY THEFT IN GEORGE EMERGES
PREMIER WINDE DEFENDS HIS MEC AS EVIDENCE OF ANOTHER DA COUNCILLOR LINKED TO ELECTRICITY THEFT IN GEORGE EMERGES
Winde condones the consumption of electricity at the Simmers' household without payment.
Premier Alan Winde has presented an extraordinarily detailed technical exoneration of his MEC Tertuis Simmers, who has been accused of electricity theft from George Municipality. The exoneration contains no references to ethics or integrity.
The exoneration is sadly unconvincing, not least because it was released as it emerged that Simmers was not the only DA councillor in George to benefit from illegally manipulated electricity meters.
Winde's PR about leading a government of integrity underpinned by "lifestyle audits" appears entirely hollow.
A few months ago I asked Winde whether his lifestyle audits included questions about criminal complaints or charges, and was baffled by his response that they would not. Were these audits deliberately designed to avoid dealing with a criminal complaint lodged against a member of his cabinet – who inexplicably enjoys protection from scrutiny?
Now Winde has responded to the submission by GOOD of a dossier of evidence showing Simmers was an alleged beneficiary of electricity theft while serving as an Eden District Municipality councillor and living in George.
Winde concedes that the electricity meter at the George home where Simmers lived was tampered with, and that Simmers was living in the home when the tampering was discovered.
But, rather bizarrely, Winde suggests that the tampering may have been a plot hatched by Simmers' former wife to harm him. She held the lease to the house in George but was not living there when the tampering was discovered by the George Municipality.
The Premier is at pains to point out that Mr Simmers was not party to the lease agreement. He doesn't comment on the fact that, whether or not Simmers signed the lease, he was living in the house and would have benefitted from not paying for electricity he consumed due to the tampering.
Ultimately, Winde condones the consumption of electricity at the Simmers' household without payment.
In the meantime, GOOD's corruption desk has received information relating to another DA councillor in George, Cecil Noble, who is alleged to have benefited to the tune of R38 000 after his electricity meter was also tampered with.
According to a memo from the Director of Finances to the Mayor, Speaker and Municipal Manager, dated February 2019, "it is recommended that the Municipal Manager appoint an independent legal person to investigate/handle this matter"...because, "it is the current practice not to report such matters (persons) to the South African Police Service".
This "current practice" is a reference to a cynical decision by Councillors in the George Municipality to effect a policy change that prevents municipal officials from pursuing criminal charges for electricity theft with SAPS. Despite an apparent conflict of interest evidence suggests that Cllr Noble participated in that decision.
MEC for Local Government Anton Bredell recently announced a probe into alleged irregularities in George – but the probe does not appear to include electricity theft, nor to investigate the VBS-style payments to the family of DA politicians uncovered by our corruption desk some months ago.
Instead, this probe has the appearance of a witch-hunt targeting whistle-blowers.
Bredell has evidently sat on the information about electricity theft by DA representatives for more than 18 months.
For any George probe to report to him is like putting a fox in charge of the chicken house.
Costs for South Africans are rising, and a culture of non-payment for municipal services places an increasing burden on those taxpayers who do pay.
The electricity stolen at the homes of DA politicians is not free – local ratepayers carry those costs.
It is unacceptable for DA politicians to enjoy a free ride at the expense of others and to do so without any consequence.
The Premier has gone to extraordinary lengths to find a technical basis to avoid dealing with the ethical and legal failures we presented to him.
The exoneration is unconvincing – ethically or legally.
He has failed the very first test of his commitment to a government of integrity.
There are no re-writes when it comes to being tested for integrity. You either have it or you don't.