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Porn-watching mayor says sorry


Cape Metropolitan Council mayor William Bantom who resigned from the New National Party on Tuesday after admitting he watched child pornography has asked family, church, colleagues and friends to forgive him.

"I know I have done wrong and I respect the wishes of my party in asking me to resign," Bantom said.

"I have erred, both as a Christian and as a member of my community, and I pray that my fellow Christians and the community will find it in their hearts to forgive me."

Bantom, who was the first black mayor of Cape Town and the first and only Cape metropolitan mayor since 1996, thanked the NNP for supporting him throughout his political career and apologised to the council for the embarassment he had caused.

"I thank all my colleagues and officials in the council for all their friendship and support over the years. I have let them down."

He said he wanted to spend some time alone with his family.

Bantom, 54, a graduate of the Nazarene Theological College, studied at the University of the Western Cape for a social sciences degree and has been a church minister since 1968.

Earlier on Tuesday, Western Cape premier Gerald Morkel said Bantom had been forced to quit the NNP after being caught downloading pornography from the Internet and watching pornographic videos in his council office.

Morkel told a news conference he asked Bantom for his resignation after the mayor was caught dabbling with pornography for a second time last week despite an earlier warning.

At least one of the Internet sites Bantom was caught viewing involved children and adults engaged in sexual activity.

"His resignation from the NNP will also inevitably require him to resign as mayor as well ... (but) I can't sack him as mayor," Morkel said.

Bantom would be forced to quit because the NNP would withdraw its support for him as mayor, Morkel's spokesperson Chris Koole said.

Morkel said he sought the advice of a senior and respected doctor who told him there was a possibility that Bantom could be rehabilitated.

He said he had given Bantom a second chance. For almost a year he received no indications that Bantom was involved in pornography of any kind. But at the end of last week, he found that Bantom had been playing pornographic videos in his office.

"It was clear that Bantom had not honoured his undertaking to me and after confirming the pornography video incident on Monday, I asked Bantom to come to see me to discuss the matter. As a result of our discussion I have demanded his resignation from the NNP with immediate effect."

Morkel said he had taken this drastic step because it had become clear that Bantom had not ceased his pornographic activities and was not fit to be a candidate in the coming municipal election.

When people viewed pornographic material in their own home it was their business but when this was done on state or council property, "I draw the line," Morkel said.

"This is a human tragedy. He has been in the NNP for a long time. It's difficult to handle a matter like this."

Morkel said he now realised that he should have insisted on Bantom's immediate resignation when the initial allegations surfaced.

Bantom's resignation comes a day after New National Party leader and Democratic Alliance deputy chief Marthinus van Schalkwyk backed calls for a register of sex offenders to be instituted.

National Assembly communications committee chairperson Nat Kekana said MPs would early next year hold public hearings into cyberporn, particularly the downloading of child pornography from the Internet.

Speaking after Bantom had resigned, Kekana said his committee was concerned about the number of reported cases involving access to pornography and child pornography via the Internet.

The leader of the African National Congress in the Western Cape, Ebrahim Rasool said Morkel had again failed the people of the province.

"The fact that Gerald Morkel knew about the allegations against Bantom in October last year and failed to act is evidence of a gross failure to give moral and political leadership to the Western Cape," Rasool said.

Rasool said a little girl, Nadia van Willingh, a victim of child abuse had just been buried - one of several children to be brutally murdered in the Western Cape recently. "We need to be uncompromising in our stand against abuse and molestation of children.

He said the NNP was clearly not a party of family values. What they said and what they did failed to match. "Their actions at night do not match their words in the daylight hours.

Rasool said the Western Cape coalition government was increasingly characterised by nepotism, sleaze, grime and corruption. It preferred to cover up and pretend it was a clean and corruption-free government.

"At a time when our people are traumatised by the ongoing abuse, rape and molestation of our children, the first citizens of the province turn a blind eye to behaviour which creates a climate for such abuse. Enough is enough."

Morkel would have to explain to the people of the province why he allowed Bantom to continue with his official duties after he knew about Bantom's "criminal activity" almost a year ago, ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni said on Tuesday.

Morkel and the Democratic Alliance owed the people of Cape Town an explanation and a public apology for failing to lead "in good faith".

"We therefore call on the DA to remove Morkel from office for his failure to deal adequately with the Bantom affair and in the process covering up a criminal act," Yengeni said. - Sapa


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