Cape Town - Outraged Hanover Park community groups gathered outside the Athlone Magistrate’s Court in support of one their own who is appearing on charges of intimidation brought by their ward councillor.
The Hanover Park Community Policing Forum, Neighbourhood Watch Groups, and several community empowerment campaigns and organisations, gathered yesterday with posters in support of its “champion of justice”, Roberto Stemmet, after an intimidation complaint was made by councillor Antonio van der Rheede.
With 100 people outside the court in support of Stemmet, the case was not heard due to it not being on the court roll.
Stemmet’s wife Jesmina said: “Roberto is not fighting Van der Rheede, he is fighting the office of the councillor and the injustices. He is standing for different people and organisations.”
Jesmina and members of the community had previously approached the Human Rights Commission and the City over grievances related to the councillor.
“So we’re saying, we want to work with you, work with us, don’t cut us off. And what he does is, he duplicates projects. If he doesn’t like you or the way you ask him questions, he’ll cut you off and move on and open another organisation like he did with the neighbourhood watches.”
A criminal case of defamation was also made against a member in Van der Rheede’s office after it was said Van der Rheede had given a non-profit organisation, Youth Impact and Sustainable Solutions, headed by Stemmet, R500 000.
Philippi CPF secretary Weldon Cameron said Stemmet facilitated programmes that assisted in steering vulnerable youth away from crime and upskills them.
“(Van der Rheede) doesn’t take note of policies and procedures. He is a force and law unto his own.
“There’s quite a lot of abuse that people have suffered under his hands and the residents have actually formed a committee where our agenda is to get rid of the ward councillor, but to get rid of him according to the lines that he reports to – according to councillor procedure and policies,” said Cameron.
“The councillor has opened a case of intimidation for the type of pressure that he receives from this entity. There's a political ploy that is now being played to criminalise him and also to disqualify him from continuing helping our youth at risk.”
Moms Move for Justice founder Avril Andrews said Stemmet had been instrumental in standing up against injustices within the community.
“From the Moms Move for Justice, we’ve tried a lot of times to have a meeting with the councillor, but he would refuse.
“We would arrange a meeting and then he wouldn’t pitch or he wouldn’t answer our emails. And it’s really a cry from NGOs that he’s just working with certain NGOs.”
Prior to this, Stemmet said the two had a good relationship.
“But when it comes to his function as a councillor, there’s certain obligations that he has to perform and that’s where he’s failing.”
Stemmet said they had secured a meeting with the DA chief whip next week in order to take matters against Van der Rheede further.