Town up in arms over racism claims

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

The DA’s dream of snatch­ing Mpumalanga’s Steve Tsh­wete Local Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Mid­del­burg risks go­ing up in smoke due to racism flow­ing like magma through the party lead­er­ship in the town.

A po­ten­tial coun­cil­lor can­di­date for the Kanonkop ward 15, Buks Olivier (67), is dig­ging up history from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s files and us­ing it against one of the hope­fuls af­ter racism al­le­ga­tions.

Steve Tsh­wete is a flag­ship, ANC-led mu­nic­i­pal­ity, and has been re­ceiv­ing clean au­dits year af­ter year. But, its stan­dard has been de­te­ri­o­rat­ing and it is plagued by ser­vice de­liv­ery protests.

The sit­u­a­tion has also raised the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers’ hopes of win­ning the mu­nic­i­pal­ity out­right, if not through a coali­tion, af­ter the Au­gust 3 elec­tions.

The DA’s Fed­eral Can­di­dates Elec­tion Com­mit­tee has since re­moved Olivier, who at­tended a se­lec­tion process in a bid to be­come a can­di­date in the ward. This was af­ter provin­cial leg­is­la­ture mem­ber and Steve Tsh­wete con­stituency leader Bos­man Grob­ler com­plained about his al­leged past racist at­ti­tude while he was em­ployed as a build­ing in­spec­tor in the ANC-led coun­cil.

Grob­ler’s com­plaint fol­lows a sep­a­rate in­ci­dent of al­leged fail­ure to thwart racism in­volv­ing for­mer provin­cial DA leader An­thony Be­nadie’s Dros restau­rant in Fe­bru­ary. A black pa­tron, El­nah Sek­wane (25) ac­cused Be­nadie of turn­ing a blind eye af­ter she com­plained about white pa­trons who re­ferred to her as a k **** r.

Be­nadie also had am­bi­tions to stand as a coun­cil­lor, but with­drew from the race fol­low­ing a rant on Twit­ter by the South African Na­tional Civic Or­gan­i­sa­tion over the in­ci­dent.

City Press has seen Grob­ler’s com­plaint, which de­manded that Olivier be dis­lodged as a can­di­date. Grob­ler al­leges that he re­ceived three com­plaints about Olivier:

In 2010, Olivier al­legedly said: “I’m go­ing to black­list your com­pany from this coun­cil and show all you black con­trac­tors who is boss here.” He also al­legedly said: “I’m an ANC mem­ber; you won’t do any­thing, you stupid blacks.”

In the same con­ver­sa­tion, he al­legedly said: “Ek praat nie met jou nie. Jy is net ’n klein k **** r [I’m not speak­ing to you. You are just a small k **** r].”

Grob­ler claims in the let­ter that he re­ceived two com­plaints this year from or­di­nary cit­i­zens: one said he be­lieved Olivier would cost the DA votes, while the other al­leged that Olivier favoured the ANC dur­ing a by-elec­tion in 2014, when bal­lot papers were in dis­pute, and even dis­carded DA bal­lot papers. The com­plaint said it was known that Olivier was an “ill-man­nered” per­son.

Grob­ler tried to down­play the mat­ter when City Press con­tacted him for com­ment.

“Buks ap­plied to be a can­di­date coun­cil­lor, but we have strin­gent pro­cesses. A per­son suit­able for the di­verse con­stituency was ap­pointed. Any al­le­ga­tion re­gard­ing racism is pure spec­u­la­tion and is look­ing for sen­sa­tion­al­ism,” he said.

Olivier de­nied he was a racist and ex­pressed un­hap­pi­ness that the al­le­ga­tions had been made about him.

“Look, I was em­ployed in an ANC-led mu­nic­i­pal­ity and would have been fired for us­ing the k-word, which I had not used in my life be­cause I’m a Chris­tian and re­spect peo­ple.

“I’m heart­sore be­cause the DA did not pro­vide proof for their al­le­ga­tions. Now, I’ll vote for the ANC,” he said.

Mpumalanga DA leader James Masango ac­knowl­edged the al­le­ga­tions, say­ing that the party did not want to take a risk with Olivier’s can­di­dacy.

“We were cau­tious and with­drew him,” Masango said.

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