Cape Town – Divisions in the DA Knysna caucus have deepened after the election of an ANC councillor as the deputy to mayor Mark Willemse, a DA councillor.
This followed a successful motion of no confidence against deputy mayor Elrick van Aswegen, a Cope councillor.
The DA caucus abstained from voting on the motion tabled by independent party the Knysna Unity Congress and supported by the ANC.
The move comes after the ANC took the speaker position from the DA when councillor Mertle Gombo replaced Georlene Wolmarans, also through a motion of no confidence.
Municipality spokesperson Chris Bezuidenhout said the council resolved to hold the latest motion by secret ballot.
“There were nine abstentions; eight votes in favour of the removal (of Van Aswegen), and three votes against (his) removal... ANC councillor Aubrey Tsengwa was nominated unopposed and subsequently elected as deputy mayor,” he said.
DA councillor Peter Myers said the outcome was “bizarre”, as not only did the DA caucus abstain from voting on the motion, but it did not propose an opposition nomination.
He and Willemse had been “frozen out” by the DA caucus, which had assumed an opposition role as it did not recognise Willemse as mayor.
Willemse has survived three motions of no confidence following the removal of his predecessor, DA councillor Eleanore Bouw-Spies.
When she was removed, he and Myers “voted with their conscience”. After her ousting, Willemse was elected mayor with the vote of the opposition, which the DA leadership called a “coup” and called for his resignation.
Willemse said he could no longer communicate through the DA caucus.
“I have to seriously consider my position, whether to continue in this fashion or step down. I remain a DA member and I will continue to work towards good governance in my role as we go into a short recess following the next council meeting in a few weeks,” he said.
He would need to elect a mayco, which was still in his purview, and was “in the dark” as to what the DA leadership had in place for him.
DA provincial leader Bonginkozi Madikizela said: “Our caucus could not participate in an election when they did not support the mayor... the DA is now the opposition as he (Willemse) is an ANC mayor. As far as I am concerned, he is no longer a member of the DA,” he said.
Van Aswegen said he was frustrated by the “instability” in the council, which was caused by infighting in the DA since Bouw-Spies’ ousting.
ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs said: “We will not allow the internecine fighting to let us lose sight of why we’ve been elected.
“Knysna is a small beginning, but it is an important part of the ANC strategy to regain the management of Western Cape towns in the next local government elections.”