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MikeHampton
 
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The DA Merry-Go-Round

14 February 2014, 08:56
This is the merry-go-round i've been forced to 'play' on for 2 years, 8 months, 2 weeks and 5 days - i’ve been denied access to information that should’ve have been public. The deniers have been the Knysna Municipality and the DA. Even the ‘DA Corruption Hotline’ and ‘DA-run Eden District Anti Fraud Hotline’ have remained silent to my submissions. This can only be viewed as deliberate obstruction which fattened the question: “What are they hiding?”

I resurface the topic of the Knysna Tourism budget (as part of the bigger disaster of maladministration and possibly fraud)  because there have been new developments in that Minister Alan Winde, Magda Moos and Peter Meyers (the latter two from the Knysna DA Constituency), have promised to deliver me the answers. I have heard such promises from the DA before but all were a lie. I can hope that this time is different but to ensure that all is 100% clear, during which they’ve spread disinformation about me, i’ve composed several blogs as a build-up of which this is one.

It should be noted that i had already approached Alan Winde on this topic (and more) on several occasions the past 2 years as he is the Minister for Finance and Tourism for the Western Cape, the representative for the Knysna Constituency, visits Knysna Tourism and meets Michelle Wasserman (DA Speaker & Tourism Board Director) and Greg Vogt (Chairman of the Tourism Board) on a regular basis.

Premier Helen Zille claimed many meetings by the DA with me, implying they had helped - that isn’t true. Alan Winde, in the meeting i’ve still to blog about, concurred with Helen, saying that i had been given the budget to which i pointed out that i’d clearly asked for a detailed budget and not a summary, as i have so many times before. Without knowing who got the money and seeing proof of tenders, how will we ever understand how Knysna Tourism went from R3.5million in the green to bankrupt and having to borrow half a million to keep the most important office in our tourist-based town open.

Alan Winde promised to deliver the requested budget within 3 days, emailing Greg Vogt during our meeting. 6 days later i received the same budget summaries that tell us nothing. Alan Winde did say, however, that, “I am aware that Mike’s mail below asks for deeper detail on the tourism budgets. Once he gives me the detail needed I will ask for it on your behalf and report back to the group.” I have given such before so can’t help but wonder if this is just another delay tactic as elections approach.

It must be kept foremost in mind that the Tourism office has run without a CEO for almost 18 months, paid the ex-CEO a small fortune to sign a non-disclosure agreement, has been illegally paying money to Greg Vogt via a third party, and has refused to give details to its Section 21 members and the public (the latter is very relevant under the Municipal Finance Management Act as most of their funding is derived from the taxpayer). It is highly unlikely that Tourism doesn’t have all the information on hand – after all, the Board Members, which included several DA Councillors,  charged the ex-CEO with 4 charges of gross misconduct. The reason for them to keep it quiet is because the constitution says that they are ultimately responsible. They further blockaded the public by illegally changing their constitution to, essentially, threatening members if they contradicted the Directors – they made it blatant that questions are not welcomed.

Basil Michaelides, the auditor, who is on the finance committee with the DA Speaker, Michelle Wasserman, never responded to my email query as well. He, more than most, will be aware of the accounting problems at Knysna Tourism. Recently, his company was subsumed by Grant Thornton South Africa who describe themselves as “leaders in our chosen market, providing assurance, tax and specialist business advice to dynamic organisations – listed companies, large privately held businesses and private equity backed organisations.” So i contacted Grant Thornton and was pleased at the rapid response of Deepak Nagar, the National Chairman who said “we are looking into this matter as a matter of urgency and will revert”. However, 24 days later, they haven’t and in that period Basil Michaelides, so i’ve been told, has resigned as auditor from Knysna Tourism – that’s far too coincidental.


Even if the Wizard of Oz ruled the Western Cape, it would be totally preposterous that Helen Zille, Alan Winde and countless other DA staff, councillors and ministers are unaware of my demands for transparency. Even my critics who support the DA at all costs would find it laughable that i haven’t made myself loud and clear. That i’m told that i haven’t, and that they’ve been helpful, can only be considered as another delay and another attempted rewriting of history.

My name crops up in meetings from here to Cape Town. Helen Zille admitted she reads my blog and she turned up in my hometown with a file on me. They are aware so maybe their biggest lie has been to pretend to be unaware because if they’d simply chosen the moral path, they’d have fixed their management problems and, most likely, have earned respect for making hard decisions and corrections which leaders are suppose to make.

Instead of their bad actions making the ANC’s non-actions look good, the DA would have strengthened their position in Knysna. As i’ve repeatedly said, i’m not into the DA versus ANC, ANC versus DA blame game. I just wanted the problems fixed so that i could say, “Job well done.” Now i’m just hoping to say, ‘Finally!”

Below doesn’t remotely reflect the full picture and the number of people i’ve contacted. Some mails were lost when a drive died and others were similar to below so excluded. There were also meetings and phone calls. And this only represents a few of the questions and even fewer questions regarding the Knysna Tourism disaster. Not to mention that the 295 000 words on Knysna Keep were a response to that cover-up and the big question mark they generated, unlike a halo, over the heads of many those (and more) on the Wall of Shame. Their non-response has absorbed almost 3 years of my life (i would love it to be over).

We are past the stage of them being able to choose the lesser of two evils which is gross incompetency. This was a cover-up. Public information was denied and the very people who screwed up were not only allowed to maintain their positions but reinforce them.

WILL THEY?

Will Premier Helen Zille, MEC Alan Winde, Mayor Wolmarans, Deputy Mayor Esme Edge, Speaker Michelle Wasserman, Councillor Steven de Vries (Chief Whip DA), Councillor Richard Dawson (DA), Grant Easton (KM Financial Director), Municipal Manager Lauren Waring, Basil Michaelides (auditor), and any past or current member of the Tourism Board from the past 3 years state in an email word for word:

“On his request, I provided Mike Hampton a detailed budget of Knysna Tourism that clearly shows who was paid (and what for) so that the financial health of Knysna Tourism could be understood. Furthermore, I state with certainty that there has been no maladministration, tender irregularities or fraud.”

MAILS CALLING FOR THE BUDGET

MEC Alan Winde is welcome to any of the emails as proof of the wording below:

2011.06.10 To Greg Vogt & Marion:
As a member of the public, several requests for public information has not been provided after 2 weeks (websites are long out of date). I seek budgets, the latest AGM report and details of community projects (not an advertorial but real information that shows that Tourism is utilizing budget wisely). I sent the same request to the Mayor’s office via email but also failed to get a response. These are essential so as to determine if budgeting has been wisely distributed. The negative impression i’ve received is undoubtedly shared with some. There’s a bigger picture than just my experience. We need to define it and deal with it so as to help our town, especially during this challenging Recession. I believe that it’s imperative that we bring these matters to the public’s eye and ensure that the new municipal government gives it the attention it deserves. Unlike those who are applauding the DA, i believe that they have to prove themselves first (the mayor failed to respond to me). But, before all that, and before i publish more specific blogs, i approach the Board (whose names are not even posted on the website) and members of Tourism for clarity.

2011.06.29 To Tourism Board (includes Greg Vogt, Mark Dixon, Mayor Wolmarans, Deputy Mayor Wasserman and MM Johnny Douglas):
As i so clearly stated previously, and you again chose to ignore with your “reasonability”, start by sharing and discussing the following with the Knysna community:

  • 2010 & 2011 budgets
  • 2010 community projects (not the advertorial, real information)
  • 2011 community project plan
  • Oyster Fest 2010 & 2011 budget breakdown
  • Pick ‘n Pay & Worldsport’s mandate for Oyster Fest
  • The deals with people who work both for both Knysna Tourism and Worldsport

Do so, and i’d welcome a meeting.

2011.06.29 To Tourism Board (includes Greg Vogt, Mark Dixon, Mayor Wolmarans, Deputy Mayor Wasserman and MM Johnny Douglas) and forwarded to Councillor Esme Edge:
I have very clearly stated twice that i’d gladly meet so long as you make the requested information public first. Those were very simple responses! Being a good person is also a simple choice.

Instead, thrice, you’ve responded as if i didn’t respond…not to mention that you chose to lie in your email earlier today i.e. “In effect you, through refusing to meet with members of the board, ended all means of any meaningful discourse between yourself and the board. This is not silence from our side, but an indication that you possibly do not have any intent to resolve your program of public attack.” You purposely distorted my response. I distrust yours [Mark Dixon] and Greg Vogt’s motives. The Board has shown no integrity.

I reiterate that the Tourism Board, including the mayor, need to share public information and open it for discussion, a request that you’ve blatantly not addressed in our correspondence. I’m not going to accept your bullshit anymore. The goal is to sort things, not play games. You belittle the importance of the issues. So now i change my position. I will not deal with, or respond to, you or Greg Vogt. The silence of the other Board members equates to uselessness too. Your silence does not excuse you from blame. You’ve shown no good intentions and are totally inept or something worse in your position.

My message to the Mayor and council: Stop passing the cheese! This should never have been a major issue. There was no need for delay or escalation. I’d much rather be working practically than pursuing your nonsense. All you had to do was be responsive. All you had to do was your job. That you’ve allowed it to drag on is not only irresponsible but disheartening too. You’re suppose to be our leaders and safeguard. Aren’t we suppose to be on the same side if we both love Knysna?

Final responsibility rests with Mayor Georlene Wolmarans. All correspondence will be directed to her and the council from now on. I will only respond to them, not this corruption of what the Tourism Board is suppose to be.

Mayor, will you please give up your 6 week silence and join me for a constructive cup of coffee in Woodmill Lane tomorrow? I’d love a reason to stop this course of action. Was yours and Helen Zille’s promises in Hornlee true or not? Transparency is a much better option than yours and the DA’s closed doors. Help make Knysna a better place.

2011.07.07 – From Nick Bischoff (Knysna Ratepayers’ Association) to Grant Easton (KM Financial Director):
You may not be aware of this request and therefore may be able to assist this member of KRA by facilitating delivery against the request made.

2011.07.11 To Michelle Wasserman, Esme Edge:
I write to both of you after Esme having told me that you’ll be in municipal training this week which would delay our meeting regarding my Tourism queries.

Today is Day #45 since i first asked Knysna Tourism for their budget. The first time i mentioned it to Georlene was on election day a month ago. I have obviously mailed a lot of people during this period. More obvious than that is the lack of response. The point i’m making is that the latest delay doesn’t account for the entire silence by the DA.

Michelle, will you respond to me for the first time? Secondly, what did you do at the beginning of last week, at the Financial meeting, when you realized that the municipality never had Tourism’s budget? Is it now on your desk or was Shaun and the rest of the Tourism Board allowed more excuses. This constant delay only gives Shaun van Eck “grace” to make things look better. And if it isn’t on your desk, are you going to avoid more delays and tell him to do so today? And will you ensure that during this week you’re supplied with a breakdown of who in fact is getting what i.e. a budget that can be understood? That would include the Oyster Festival breakdown…

2011.07.18 to Michelle Wasserman
Yes, i’ll gladly be available but please would you first provide me more details with regards yours and the mayor’s goals at this meeting. The past 7 weeks have made me cautious, especially regarding the manner in which the Tourism Board CEO and Vice Chair had intended for our meetings (and i note that Shaun van Eck was CCied in your mail). It would be nice to know that in your position, for example, as a Tourism Board member and head of the municipality’s Financial committee, that you share some of my queries. Will there be real breakdowns that we can understand rather than generalized budget? Who is getting what is important. If this is meant to be constructive, please would Esme, as a Tourism Board member, if that legality has been sorted, join as well.

2011.07.24 To Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councillor Esme Edge (both also Tourism Board Directors):
This past Friday, on day #55 of battling to get answers regarding Knysna Tourism, i finally had a meeting with the DA. This included Mayor Georlene Wolmarans, Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councilor Esmé Edge. Additionally, the latter two have been appointed to the Tourism Board, Michelle heads the Financial Committee and Esmé Infrastructure. I was in good company considering the topics.

There were no cookies and coffee but they definitely get credit for politeness. I’d also held back on blogging the previous week as a gesture of good will and in the hope that the meeting would be productive. Admittedly, i liked all 3 ladies. Outside of our adopted positions, i’d probably enjoy their conversation socially but my goal is to get answers and improve Knysna as best i can so let’s get down to the facts:

They provided Knysna Tourism’s 2010 & 2011 budgets and a 2008 Oyster Festival agreement between Pick ‘n Pay and Knysna Tourism. The agreement doesn’t answer my query regarding the community development mandate and it’s possible there have been changes over the past 3 years. Regards the budget, i’d previously requested a breakdown of who is getting what because, without it, the meeting couldn’t truly be productive. Unfortunately it wasn’t provided. To explain why it’s essential, consider that Tourism’s 2010/2011 budget was R7 million. Some categories read as:

  •     Annual Event Support – R1 390 000
  •     Advertising – R1 200 000
  •     Media Educationals – R350 000
  •     Website (Marketing & Development) – R105 000

That explains nothing and only beggars questions. The power lady trio said that they will be answered and that Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman would be on point. There is some comfort in that as she’s an advocate which i’m hoping translates into a passion for justice. Nevertheless, and despite the obvious challenge it must be as new leaders trying to determine where the previous administration left the the Knysna Municipality, it had being 55 days i.e. another delay!

This is what they’re busy doing or intending to do:

  • The municipality will install a query/complaint system.
  • Knysna Tourism will install a query/complaint system.
  • The municipal website will be updated/upgraded.
  • That i should consider our meeting as introductory and that there will be follow-ups.
  • They will get the answers to the questions i’m asking (and requested that i submit them via email again – i will also post those online tomorrow).
  •  Deputy Mayor will complete the interview i sent her.

Keep in mind that the questions i’m asking should be exactly the same questions they should be asking. Their positions require it. It’s damn scary that no one in appropriate positions of power knows exactly what is happening with Tourism under Shaun van Eck and the current Board led by Mark Dixon and Greg Vogt.

Perspective can also make a difference. It’s quite easy to switch views of my activism from “irritating blogging” to “a helping hand”, especially if we all love Knysna.

Knysna Tourism must give a “fair shake” to service providers (is there favouritism?/is their overpayment for services?), share their marketing strategy with the town they represent, and install practical development plans that include the majority of Knysna’s citizens.

Knysna Tourism can’t honestly claim to represent Knysna if the 7 members of it’s board, it’s CEO and Public Relations Officers are all White. I exclude the 8th member of the board, the Municipal Manager, Johnny Douglas as his role seems invisible i.e. non-active and pathetic. Finally, that’s a big budget for a small town – oversight is needed!

I made the title of this a question because it’s very easy in our jaded world to question whether intentions are real. Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman validated most of my queries but only time will decide whether our meeting was political posturing or a service to the community of Knysna through truth, responsible accountability and genuine leadership. I’m hoping for the latter! We can make a difference!

2011.07.25 To Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councillor Esme Edge (both also Tourism Board Directors):
What is the breakdown of the 2010 & 2011 Knysna Tourism budgets i.e. not a generalization of R7 million budget but exactly who got paid and sponsored what? How are service providers fairly determined? What is being done to get the best prices?

2011.07.29 To Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councillor Esme Edge (both also Tourism Board Directors):
We’re one week later after our meeting. What progress has been made? And how has Tourism been instructed?

2011.07.30 To Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councillor Esme Edge (both also Tourism Board Directors) [in response to Wasserman saying: "I have taken your concerns up with Mark Dixon (Chairman of Knysna Tourism).  I can assure you that the issues raised by you in our meeting are being attended to. Mr Dixon will unfortunately be away for the next 2 weeks."]:
That’s unfortunately another delay, after many, rather than someone finding a solution. The Board is part of the problem, thus Mark Dixon is a problem too. There are other members, Mark Dixon was not on holiday the past month, there’s Corporate Services, and never forgetting the simple obligation Shaun van Eck has to his job and the obligation that the council, under the DA, has to Knysna… This mail and my intentions are in response to your delaying tactics. This is Day #64 and you now want me to wait a further 2 weeks. If it’s anything like the past has shown, at that time another delay will be presented.

2011.08.08 – To Corporate Service Director’s, Reggie Smit
Morning, Reggie. Thanks for the meeting. That you never rushed it was appreciated.I’m hoping that you find some value in my questions. If so, after answering, i’m also hoping that you would find value in my input. If anything, i believe that these tough times call for transparency and should feature more input from the Knysna community. Not only concerning Knysna Tourism. Understanding leads to less complaints and we, as a town, have a very rough road ahead. [I never got the answers. After this, Reggie's department was closed to me and his emails were first redirected to then Acting Municipal Manager, Lauren Waring]

2011.08.08 – To Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councillor Esme Edge (both also Tourism Board Directors):
18 days ago, you said that you’d get answers. 10 days ago, you state another delay of 2 weeks. Now you’re telling me that in another 17 days there’ll be a meeting. That will be exactly 90 days! since i started trying to get answers. And that doesn’t even mean that i’ll get answers then. Even if everything was perfect at Knysna Tourism, why weren’t the Tourism Board members asking questions of their own, especially since Tourism was about to receive another R4 million, so that they/you understood their roles better? Why didn’t a single member of the Tourism Board call a meeting?

2011.08.15 – To Corporate Service’s Director, Reggie Smit [in response to Reggie Smit saying, "can unfortunately not respond to bullets 4,5,6 & 8 of your e-mail." which was a referral to budget questions. Ridiculous considering he is the man responsible for giving Knysna Tourism their budget]
I accept that you’ve been busy finding your feet and playing with mud made by your predecessors but in no way does that excuse the agonizing time you’ve made me dangle. The bigger picture, the truth, is that the only thing i’ve been able to count on so far is your unhelpfulness. You deliberately delay and lie yourselves into bad faith. With tourism being an enormous component in the machine driving Knysna, that should never have been an option.

With the removal of Johnny Douglas as Municipal Manager, i expect there to be some covering of arses during whatever follows. I may never have had a conversation with Lauren Waring but she holds the dubious position of being the only municipal worker who messaged me not to mail her (as The KEEP) and also failed to answer questions that i directed at her i.e. Uselessness Municipal Manager got replaced with Acting Uselessness Municipal Manager.

Pointing fingers at corruption may be a necessity but it does not validate your own courses of action.

Mayor Georlene Wolmarans has lied about action several times, starting on Election Day, so i was willing to accept her delegation of my queries to Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman even though it was an ironic action. I say such because Michelle, along with Councillor Esme Edge, should have already carried that responsibility as members of the Knysna Tourism Board. Both, along with other Board members such as the Chair Mark Dixon and and Vice-Chair Greg Vogt, should have been asking questions before me!

2011.08.19 – Confirmation from Alan Winde’s office that i sent blog links questioning DA, including response to Tourism queries
[coincidence or not? The same day, Michelle Wasserman unsubscribes from the Knysna Keep. 2 days later, Esme Edge does the same]

2011.08.24 – Myrtle Jonathan (Office of Premier, Helen Zille) acknowledges receipt of Dear Helen, the Knysna DA is a Lie letter.
[Coincidence or not? 2 days later, Mayor Georlene Wolmarans sends me a letter in which it admonishes my language before going on to say that my, "emails, sms messages and blog links have been forwarded to" Alan Winde and Helen Zille's office. What it doesn't bother to say is the most important i.e. WE HAVE NOT GIVEN YOU THE BUDGET YOU ASKED FOR. WE HAVE ONLY DELAYED YOU.

Don't get lost in all the words and seeming politeness. Just keep reminding yourself that they haven't answered!

2011.08.28 - To Helen Zille and Alan Winde [rather than be intimidated, i responded strongly 3 days later, with a letter entitled, Dear Helen, is the DA Rotten? It was sent to Helen Zille and Alan Winde, deliberately adding in a swear word]:
What are the facts? Attached is the letter i received from Knysna’s Mayor, Georlene Wolmarans on August 26 2011. I doubt that it’s composed by her but since she signed it she must own it. The wording seems reasonable to someone unfamiliar with the situation but the reality is the perpetuation of lies and delays by the Knysna’s Democratic Alliance. Considering all that has gone before, i’m more likely to look in between the lines which could imply that i’ve asked too many questions, that the mayor and council have been helpful and that i’ve been, subsequently, unreasonable. In that light, this is my attempt to show you, and the public, more truth. It also demonstrates how awful it has been dealing with the DA.

Additionally, it states that all correspondence from me to them has been sent to you. The Knysna DA has only lied so far so i send this as clarification in case they have only sent those that would cast me in a negative light. After all, i have threatened them but will explain that further down. Conversely, i wish to show my pro-activity. The whole “picture” is important.

It is also highly ironic that after attempting to gain answers for 93 days, that this is the only formal communication i’ve received. It’s appearance prompts a big, fat, “WHY?”. My supposition is that it’s because i mentioned their names in the letter addressed to you, the Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille. I also sent it onwards to, amongst others, the MEC for Tourism and Economic Development, Alan Winde. What’s said within, by the Mayor of Knysna, can be redefined as another wall equating to delay. Maybe it’s just a formality as a precursor to legal action. It could be several things but the one certainty is that it is, like all attitudes preceding it, UNHELPFUL!”

2011.08.29 – Geordin Hill-Lewis, Chief of Staff to the DA Leader responds:
“Dear, Mike… I understand you would like the Knysna Council to exercise more rigorous oversight over the Tourism Council. In addition to that, is there any further follow up requested? I will speak with Alan Winde about the Tourism Council, and see what follow up is possible. “

{In his next email, he responded with] “I have had a discussion with MEC Winde about this matter. He has advised me that his office is taking the lead in getting you the information you have asked for.”

2011.08.29 – Rouxlé Freysen, Public Liaison Officer and Parliamentary Support Officer, responds:
I would like to thank you for your e-mail. I have asked the Provincial Leader, Min. Botha, to look into this matter and respond to you. Thank you for this information.

2011.09.01 To Alan Winde
The DA’s unwillingness to assist is disturbing. I’d hoped that you’d be different because, simply, solutions are better than fights. Are you protecting people as well?

It’s logical for me to ask after continuous lies from the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Knynsa. You are from Knysna so you will have relationships with all involved, especially with Michelle Wasserman… there’s been no action except for you starting that phone call with a negative statement derived from a general meeting you’d had with the very people i’m questioning. Illogical and, like all before you, you didn’t try address the facts of the situation. You have yet to officially respond to my emails? You’ve been in Knysna at least twice in that time and didn’t try spend 30 minutes meeting me so as to assess me and get to the bottom of this.

I don’t want to believe that you’ve become another wall blocking off the truth – TRULY, I DON’T. I need you to give a damn and be a solution provider. I’ll fight for as long as i can but i’d rather this be over.

I want to deal with you but if i don’t have real co-operation within the next day then i’m stating my doubts. And, as said, i start with websites and flyers addressing individual Knysna problems (lagoon etc.) and DA corruption and racism. It’s truly ridiculous that i should have to threaten. You may try use that point against me but the fact is that the DA has acted every way but democratically – the Undemocratic Alliance is more apt. It’s been 97 days i.e. this is the DA’s fault! Why else would i think the DA corrupt? The DA was suppose to make a difference!

Please show me that someones cares.

2011.09.01 Lucille Fester, Alan Winde’s PA responds:
“We acknowledge receipt of your e-mail the content which has been noted. Please note that all queries of this nature should be dealt with directly with the Knysna Business Chamber, Mr Dave Hendry.”

[There's the vicious runaround and we're-not-going-to-help-you tact again. It's absolutely ridiculous that a Minister will refer corruption and maladministration queries. Let alone to the Chamber of Business which had already asked me to stop blogging. Furthermore, Dave Hendry is friends with the very CEO of Tourism i'm asking them to investigate. Furthermore, Dave Hendry lied to me that he hadn't spoken to Alan Winde about me yet Alan Winde had, telephonically, told me that he had. Additionally, Dave sent me an email to which i responded, "Disappointing email as it stretches the truth. I was very clear at our second meeting, at Katembe, that i would continue to protest. Whereas you can approach my questions from a business angle, only the DA, as an umbrella party, can correct the misadventures of the Kysna DA." It felt like small town cronyism - Alan Winde comes from Knysna too.

[The Knysna Chamber of Business has since closed down]

2011.09.01: To Helen Zille, Geordin Hill-Lewis and Lucille Fester:

That is ridiculous i.e. Alan Winde doesn’t care about Knysna but has instead decided to enjoin the very cronyism that i had approached him to sort. The only response to this, since it’s from a high level of the DA, is to dedicate myself to discrediting a DA that is based on lies. You have supported my belief that the DA is corrupt. I will intensify my efforts and ensure that much is said about the DA and Helen Zille in the coming months.

Simply:

  • Will you give me an official response?
  • Will you investigate utilizing a DA person who is not connected to Knynsa?

2011.11.08 – Geordin Hill-Lewis
“You have received replies from senior leaders of the DA. I have committed to meeting you at earliest convenience. You are free to persist with this campaign, of course, but it is unliekly to assist at all in achieving the result you desire.”

[Geordin Hill-Lewis never met me as he said he would and, more than 2 years later, they have never supplied the info]

2012.10.07 To Shaun Van Eck (forwarded to Greg Vogt):
This is a follow-up to my request (more than a year old now) for you to supply a detailed breakdown of the Knysna Tourism budget. The past 5 years worth will suffice. I am a Tourism member. What has been your reason for withholding it?

2013.04.04
Mike Hampton: Budget breakdown during Shaun’s reign – who got what?
Greg Vogt: “The disciplinary hearing has demonstrated that he did not provide detailed budgets. This was one of our gripes.”

[Again, the budget question dodged. Vogt loads the emails with lots of info but never the nitty-gritty that paints a clear picture of the financial health of Knysna Tourism. In this email and subsequent emails he talks as if the 3hr meeting he had with me was successful and as if i was happy with the answers. I never got the most important answers, including the detailed budget i'd been asking for years so HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN HAPPY? Vogt simply lies as he has on many occasions]

2012.12.14 – Michelle Wasserman Turns Down Meeting (and CCies Esme Edge, Georlene Wolmarans, Luna Swart):
Michelle: “Thank you for your offer, but I would prefer not to meet with you. If you have any questions about Shaun van Eck or the Knysna Tourism Board, please contact Greg Vogt.”

[the runaround continues]

2013.01.29 – To Knysna Tourism
The constitution of Knysna Tourism and related info such as membership rights is removed from their website. I request them and receive a response from Jacques, the PR officer, saying: “The documents you refer to are currently under review and will be sent to members as soon as they have been completed and ratified.”

2013.02.26
Yesterday, Knysna Tourism rewrote the rules of conduct without any input from membership. Look at how disgraceful the first 2 paragraphs are:

  • It is the responsibility of KT’s Membership team to receive membership applications and these applications will be submitted to the board for approval. The sole discretion to accept or reject applications is vested in the board of KT at their absolute discretion and they need not furnish reasons for their decision which shall be final and binding and no dispute will be entered into.
  • KT reserves the absolute right to refuse new membership or to terminate the existing membership of any individual/organization/company or other entity that is believed to have brought KT, its staff or its Board members into disrepute or otherwise damage its reputation or hinder its core functions. In addition thereto any member who displays conduct deemed to be unbecoming and who is guilty of dishonest or fraudulent conduct may be refused membership and in the event of such an action occurring that person’s membership may be terminated.

[draconian and more cover-up]

2013.03.27 – To Greg Vogt and Glendyrr Fick (Tourism Office Manager):
It’s been a long time since Shaun was suspended and thereafter dropped. There are big questions to be answered regards budget, development and the Oyster Fest. Either Tourism (the whole Board) co-operates (note that this is what i’d prefer by far) or i have to up my protest against their crimes against Knysna… I’ve always said that i would rather work with Tourism but the blatant fact is that Tourism and it’s funders, the Knysna Municipality, have no desire to work with me as i ask questions that you do not wish to answer. Knysna Tourism has chosen to operate in secret. Secrets have so far only damaged Knysna. Greg, you asked me to look to the future yet you have not done so. I can only imagine that that was a delaying tactic, to the Tourism’s Board’s advantage, with regards the Shaun van Eck hearings.

2013.04.04 – To Greg Vogt [countering his '3hr helpfulness' claim]
…The Board’s mistake in dealing with me was not dealing with me. You and i are past this stage but the full Board and i are not. Your repeated reference to wanting to meet with me when you were vice-chair is moot – as i’ve explained and shown, it was inappropriate to have my complaint against Shaun van Eck responded to by Shaun van Eck. The follow-up was Mark Dixon, your Chairman, not addressing my questions but instead wanting me to bring my “contracts” to the meeting. You are definitely now aware that van Eck did not deal in contracts but instead dealt in a manner where he always had power of one. But those points are just context in light of the full picture. Whether intended or not, i treated that response as diversion – i had asked for a detailed budget, something i still haven’t received.

MOST importantly, i had pointed out that there was SOMETHING ROTTEN GOING ON IN KNYSNA TOURISM. That’s my biggest contention with the Board. If you had listened and acted, Knysna Tourism would not be bankrupt. The Board never acknowledged their failure in this regard. It counts that you eventually geared into action and took on what was obviously a battle, both professionally and personally, but now, even after the fact, the Board members have not given me that acknowledgement or had the decency to approach me with the spirit of let’s move past this towards the future (as you, Greg Vogt, have done – which helped altered my opinion of you).

These items were discussed but await more feedback from you:

  • One of the biggest claims to success is the charity amount raised during Oyster Fest? Provide a breakdown of those charities and the amounts for 2010, 2011 & 2012. What follow-up procedure is there to ensure that charities receive their donation from Oyster festival organizers and then spend it appropriately? What is the legacy?
  • Do any of the current Tourism Board members, or did any of the past, or their immediate families, gain sponsorship from Tourism for events? We’re a small town so it’s possible, and justifiable, for this grey area to occur. What is important is that there is a process to prevent abuse and encourage fairness.
  • Provide the old and new Tourism rules, membership rights, constitution etc. The latest change in rules, points 1 & 2, serve the Board, not members or Knysna. They restrict freedom of expression and transparency. Constitutionally, what are the rules regarding making new rules?
  • What is the accountability chain/process for queries and project proposals?
  • Budget breakdown during Shaun’s reign – who got what?

2013.05.31 – To Greg Vogt and the Tourism Board Members:
The Knysna Tourism Board has utterly failed and damaged Knysna. It’s been 6 months since we first spoke (and 2 and a half years since i first asked for a detailed breakdown of Knysna Tourism’s budget). All i’ve experienced are delay tactics wherein small matters are addressed and large matters promised to be resolved (but never are). Disapoinment cannot be overstated…

2013.05.31 – From Greg Vogt
Our audit process has just been completed by auditors, Michaelides. At this stage your threats follow an Auditor General letter of congratulations on how we have managed our affairs since the CEO removal. We are very aware of who we are accountable to and we follow due process in accordance with our constitution that provides these guidelines…

2013.05.31 – To Greg Vogt
You well know what i speak of which means that your mail is misleading and for the benefit of whoever may read it. The Tourism Board has consistently failed to resolve major issues… Mentioning a post-van Eck audit is akin to sweeping years of problems under the rug. Dragging out issues until critics are exhausted or the public forget has unfortunately become a common practice in local government… Your email was another classic example of you pretending to be helpful but in fact ignoring the real issues…

2013.06.03 – Sent to Each Board Member which included Lauren Waring, Georlene Wolmarans, Steven de Vries, Kathy White, Collins, Richard Dawson, Esme Edge, Ella Mapurisa, Nan Raturat, Marion Mack:
I have made great effort the past 2 and a half years to gain transparency and save Knysna money but it is obvious that integrity is severely lacking and that the Knysna Tourism Board will not cooperate unless criminal charges are brought into effect. The law clearly provides for your prosecution.

Although i have no doubt that you are familiar with me and my requests to Knysna Tourism, i reiterate the basics so that there’s no doubt that you, as a newer member of the Knysna Tourism Board, are legally aware.

Understand that long-running Board members have made it clear that they will not fulfill their duty. They will suffer the consequences. You, however, have the opportunity to lessen the consequences against you if you choose to start immediate correspondence and provide, as a beginning:

  •  A detailed breakdown of the budgets under Shaun van Eck as well as after. This must include a list with each recipient, the amounts they have paid and the services they have rendered.
  • Separately, a detailed breakdown of the Oyster Festival budget so that it is clearly understood who the recipients were and what they were paid for.
  • A list of all Shaun van Eck’s errors, misjudgements, maladministration or crimes.
  • The previous and new constitutions and rules of Knysna Tourism that govern the Board and Tourism’s members.

You do not get to absolve yourself of the responsibility you chose by passing this onto Greg Vogt for his response. Greg Vogt and the Board members have perpetuated the cover-up. You must decide if you’re to remain complicit or whether you will fulfill your duty to Knysna. This is directed at each of you as an individual.

BLOG CALLING FOR THE BUDGET
(of which several were emailed as well)

2014.01.19 – Knysna’s Wall of Shame
These people, and more, have failed to provide a detailed budget of Knysna Tourism. We need to know who got their share of the millions before they became bankrupt and were forced to borrow half a million from the municipality, in advance of the R4million that came after. Which service providers gained from favouritism instead of tenders.

2013.11.19 – Knysna ANC Answers
Stephen de Vries [ANC] is on the Knysna Tourism Board too which makes him complicit with the DA and the Knysna Municipality in every misdeed committed by the Board. Why has he worked with them to cover up the loss of millions and more at Knysna Tourism? Why has he chosen the same route as Greg Vogt (Chairman of the Board) in refusing to answer budget questions?

2013.11.13 – Dear Helen Zille, You’re My Disappointment
Would not provide the Public Protector with a detailed budget breakdown and other info that would help the public understand and fix this financial and ‘leadership’ mess.

2013.10.23 – The Disturbing Situation at Knysna Tourism
Where are the quotes and tenders from suppliers to Knysna Tourism for the past 4 years? Why, AFTER 28 MONTHS, will Knysna Tourism not provide a list of who received monies from Knysna Tourism?

2012.10.12 – Shaun van Eck Suspended
The initial, and primary goal, was to gain details of the budget, to know exactly who was getting what because i strongly believed that cronyism was alive and well. It’s importance cannot be underestimated as the cliche that “money is the root of all evil” is a truism. Suspiciously, Shaun van Eck, would not supply the budget. Neither would the Tourism Board and Reggie Smit, the Municipality’s Corporate Services Manager (relevant because his department gave R4 million to Tourism). Mayor Georlene Wolmarans, Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councillor Esmé Edge promised to but unfortunately lied, failing their DA election promise of transparency (note that the latter two are currently on the Tourism Board). Why should they have given it to me? Because i’m a citizen with rights, just like you, plus i’m a member of Knysna Tourism.”

Understand my frustration! And then ask why, instead of simply fixing the problem and being honest about it, they DA have preferred to keep my running blog commentary.

2012.05.22 – Get the Truth at Knysna Tourism’s 2012 AGM
For a year, Knysna Tourism, the Knysna Tourism Board and the Knysna Municipality have refused to show details of Knysna Tourism’s budget. Not only is it the right of every Tourism member to know exactly who is getting what but the taxpayers right as well since R4 million of municipal money was allocated to Tourism last year. I tried to get the truth because i believe truth matters. Tourism, instead of addressing the issues, tried to dismiss my queries by slandering my motivations. The lies i encountered led to the formation of www.knysnakeep.org…  Until we know where we stand in the present, how can we work together towards our future? Until problems are admitted to, how can they be sorted? Start by asking for a detailed breakdown of all who’ve received money from Knysna Tourism the past 4 years. If there’s nothing to hide, why will they not show it?”

2012.05.10 – Knysna Tourism Budget Cut
I believe 100% in the importance of tourism to our town but have no faith in the people who run it so consider the budget cut a step in the right direction. I’d possibly have a different opinion if the Knysna Tourism Board (Mark Dixon etc.), CEO Shaun van Eck and Nicci Rousseau-Schmidt (Oyster Festival Manager and Knysna PR) chose to be honest by revealing exactly who has received funding the past 4 years. Instead, the horrible reality is that they have hidden such from its members and the public.

2012.05.08 – Surviving the Recession & Politicians in a Small Town
How can we trust Knysna Tourism when it’s Board and its CEO, Shaun van Eck, will not show us who has been getting the taxpayer’s money all these years. What use is the municipality if it covers up problems in the name of Tourism? This is only one example, a mouldy element within a much bigger rot that is reducing the quality of all our lives. How can problems ever be sorted unless they are admitted to? I’m not expecting miracles, just honesty, consultation with the public and confidence that taxes are being well spent.

2011.09.20 – Knysna DA’s 100-Day Action Plan (Part 3)
Does more effort by the DA towards Tourism mean that who gets what remains a secret with no respect for the +/- R4 million of taxpayer’s money Knysna Tourism gets? More for the same service providers that they won’t reveal?

2011.08.28 – Dear Helen Zille, is the DA Rotten?
The only option that seemed available was for me to force them to give answers by airing dirty laundry and shaming them. It worked. It is the only reason why they met me! So, in the letter, when Georlene Wolmarans pretends being reasonable by saying that she, Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councillor Esmé Edge met me, it’s truly bullshit. Worse, i was told by Michelle Wasserman that i would get all the answers at that meeting. I even specified that the meeting would be a waste if they did not provide who was in fact getting what monies from Tourism. She told me that they’d have it for me. They didn’t. Lie. They never gave me any other answers at that meeting so Georlene lied again in that letter. I was told that i was asking good questions and that i should consider that as a first meeting with more to come, with Michelle Wasserman, as the mayor had delegated her to deal with it – LIE! That was 40 days ago and she’s never met me again. What it really was was a stonewalling tactic…

Before i round off, let me return to Alan Winde. Alan, like others beneath you and before you, you explained the inability to get some answers was owing to the fact that Knysna Tourism is a Section 21 company, as if it’s beyond the DA’s control. That’s ridiculous. Knysna Tourism is contracted by the Knysna Municipality which the DA is in charge of. It gets approximately R4 million budget from the municipality so some oversight, for the citizens of Knysna, is obligatory. The relationship is as incestuous as it gets. Both the municipality and Tourism utilize the same PR person. 2 DA members, Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman and Councillor Esme Edge, are on the all White, 7-member Tourism Board. And who, that i’m questioning, are their cronies?

Relatedly, Georlene’s letter uses my meeting with Reggie Smit, Director of Corporate Services, as further substantiation of their co-operation. The reality is that i set up the meeting with Reggie, not the DA. Reggie’s conversation with me was helpful and informative but when i received his email, which was after i had told Michelle Wasserman that i’d met him, his tone had changed and he too resorted to illogical terminology such as “not within my mandate.” Ridiculous again as it’s his department that approves the Tourism budget. In fact, they receive a monthly budget statement from Knysna Tourism that they do not analyze. Yes, i do imply that the DA council told him not to co-operate. The irony, which Reggie may be unaware of, was in a conversation with Georlene on that very UNDEMOCRATIC day that got rid of Municipal Manager, Johnny Douglas (i have no love for him but knowing why does count as does knowing what he got paid and if Lauren Waring, his stand-in, is being paid more atop her salary?). Georlene was in a victorious mood because of the news and shared it with me. She also promised me that i would now be first on her agenda (by the way, another damn lie as she never spoke to me again). The irony part is that i mentioned that i would be following up on Reggie to which her response, as if he was being targeted or not to be trusted, was that i mustn’t speak to him but to Lauren in future.

Alan [Winde], i did appreciate the calls and the fact that you did not rush them but i must stand up for myself and the truth of the situation. It concerned me that you began the conversation by telling me that you had a meeting with Knysna Tourism, the DA and the Knysna Chamber of Business and that my “brand” is bad with them and that they had nothing good to say. I’m querying the morality of the first two, why would they? And i’ve met twice with the the Chamber of Business who were concerned that my blogging the bad may dissuade new business. They asked if i would do the opposite. I said that i already did but i would do more if i first got answers. They don’t disagree with my questions but have their own role which is to try establish a relationship with the municipality. What would be more productive is you reading the details of my email and targeting the issues. A return mail, a response, would be welcomed. You don’t have to get me answers. You’re a “boss”. Helen, you’re the BIG boss. Why isn’t the quicker resolution to spend 30 minutes reading, then ask the Knysna DA to explain themselves in writing to you, and then, if my position is found to have merit, to tell them do their job and co-operate?

2011.07.25 – Tourism Questions for the Knysna DA
The Deputy Mayor is now the designated person to deal with and she requested that i resend my unanswered queries to her so that she could follow-up. This would be a revision and extension of what was asked in Big Questions for Knysna Tourism… Here are the questions i’ve mailed to Deputy Mayor Michelle with a CC to Councilor Esmé (both are recent appointees to the Tourism Board):

[i have only included a few questions from this blog]

  • 1. What is the breakdown of the 2010 & 2011 Knysna Tourism budgets i.e. not a generalization of R7 million budget but exactly who got paid and sponsored what?
  • 2. How are service providers fairly determined? What is being done to get the best prices?
  • 3. What were the Pick ‘n Pay Oyster Fest 2010 & 2011 budgets and their allocation breakdown i.e. who got paid and sponsored what?
  • 4. If consultants and contractors are being utilized, what are they paid in relationship to what a permanent staff member would earn?

I requested this because i believe that Tourism’s finances need to be analyzed so that it can be determined if money is being allocated appropriately. I believe that it isn’t, a feeling strengthened by the fact that they will not hand over this public information.

2013.11.26 – Dear Helen Zille, Update
This is not a race thing.This is not a political party thing. This is about honesty and justice! There’s been no response to the allegations from dozens of DA members and Western Cape leaders in government. I hold true to my promise and will pursue this corruption by extending my awareness campaign. Note that i emailed a follow-up to the same blockading individuals this morning [i included a screenshot of my reporting of the crime through the DA website].

LIST OF PEOPLE I’VE CONTACTED
(SOME MISSING)

DA BIG SHOTS

  • Helen Zille (Leader of the DA and Premier of the Western Cape)
  • Geordin Hill-Lewis (Chief of Staff to the DA Leader)
  • Donnae Strydom (Secretary to Zille)
  • Myrtle Jonathan (Office of the Premier)
  • Minister Alan Winde (Finance & Tourism)
  • Lucille Fester (PA to Alan Winde)
  • Minister Robin Carlisle (Minister of Transport and Public Work)
  • Jaco Londt (Regional Manager, Western Cape East Region)
  • Rouxlé Freysen (Public Liaison Officer) – referred me to Minister Botha)
  • Dianne Kohler Barnard (Shadow Minister of Police)
  • Yussuf Cassim (DA Youth Federal Chairperson)

ANC BIG SHOT

  • Ralph Stander (ANC Provincial Committee)

WESTERN CAPE GOVERNMENT

  • Dr Johan Stegmann (Treasury)
  • Seraj Johaar  (Director Municipal Governance)
  • Melay Kuhn
  • Siphesihle Dube
  • Johan Fourie

EDEN DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY

  • Eden Corporate Services – Tertuis Alfred Simmers
  • Eden Financial – Lousie Hoek
  • Eden MM – Godfrey Louw

KNYSNA POLITICIANS

  • Georlene Wolmarans (DA Mayor/ex-Tourism Board Director)
  • Esmé Edge (DA Deputy Mayor/Tourism Board Director)
  • Michelle Wasserman (DA Speaker/ex-Deputy Mayor/ex-Tourism Board Director)
  • Steven de Vries (ANC Chief Whip)
  • Ralph Stander (ANC Provincial Committee)
  • Richard Dawson (Ward 10 Councillor)

KNYSNA MUNICIPALITY

  • Lauren Waring (Municipal Manager)
  • Johnny Douglas (ex-Municipal Manager)
  • Grant Easton (Director Finance)
  • Reggie Smit (ex-Corporate Services Manager)
  • Bevan Bellman (Corporate Services Manager)

KNYSNA TOURISM BOARD AND EX-BOARD MEMBERS

  • Greg Vogt (Tourism Board Chairman)
  • Nan Raturat/Czank (Vice-Chair/Villa Castollini)
  • Dianne Pepler (Board Director/Featherbed Nature Reserve)
  • Christine Collins (Board Director – Magnetic South)
  • Kathy White (Board Director – Sedgefield Arms)
  • Mark Dixon (ex-Chairman/Garden Route Trail)
  • Marion (Mack) McIlvenna (ex-Board Director/Armadillo Studios)
  • Debbie Stanley (ex-Board Director)
  • Ella Mahlulo (ex-Board Director/Emzini Tours)
  • Mike Mills (ex-Chairman)

AUDITORS

  • Basil Michaelides (Grant Thornton SA)
  • Deepak Nagar (Grant Thornton SA)

KNYSNA TOURISM

  • Shaun van Eck (ex-CEO of Knysna Tourism)
  • Glendyrr Fick (Knysna Tourism Office Manager)
  • Nicci Rousseau-Schmidt (Oyster Festival Manager/Knysna PR)
  • Marlene Prinsloo (Tourism Development Officer)
  • Jacques Marais (PR for Tourism as Write Touch)

DEAD KNYSNA CHAMBER OF BUSINESS

  • Dave Hendry (ex-Chairman of now defunct Knysna Chamber of Business)
  • Craig de Villiers (ex-member of now defunct Knysna Chamber of Business)

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS

  • The Knysna Ratepayers’ Association
  • Brenton Residents’ Association
  • Belvidere Homeowner’s Association
  • Leisure Isle Ratepayer’s Association (LIRA)
  • Noetzie Conservancy
  • Rheenendal Farmwatch
  • Buffalo Bay Residents and Homeowners Association
  • Sedgefield Ratepayers’ Association
  • Thesen Homeowners’ Association

LOCAL MEDIA

  • Knysna-Plett Herald
  • CX Express
  • The Edge

WARD 10 COMMITTEE MEMBERS

  • Kevin Grinaker
  • Dee Hollely
  • Leon Naude

KNYSNA RATEPAYERS’ ASSOCIATION

  • Leon Naude
  • Ian Uys

As said at the beginning, there were many more contacts than this. As with so many issues, Knysna's citizens complain bitterly but fails to act. We are a small town and small business owners, especially, are afraid that official complaints will jeopardise their incomes during these challenging times.

I've clearly, repeatedly, asked the same questions which included a request for a detailed budget of Knysna Tourism that would show what happened.

Do you believe that the DA and Knysna Municipality have been helpful… or deliberately unhelpful?

Do you understand my frustration? And why i post blogs about Knysna on News24 to draw attention to the problems we face? Unlike major cities, major media rarely gives us coverage because plane flights and accommodation cost more than someone walking through their front door with a story.

To my critics, i say place the blame where it belongs. My blogs would never have existed if the DA had upheld the law and done the job they were elected to do. They promised us austerity, transparency and an open-door policy. We got none:(

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
 

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