Can we play cle­an po­li­ti­cs in Knys­na? Ful­fil­ling our du­ty

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Letters | Briewe - Elai­ne King Elai­ne King elai­ne@grou­pe­di­

The­re is a good re­a­son that e­ven f­riends do not dis­cuss po­li­ti­cs or re­li­gi­on at a din­ner par­ty, but it would seem that a­dage does not ap­ply in t­his town.

Po­li­ti­cs in Knys­na is li­ke a ces­spool, un­li­ke any ot­her town or ci­ty w­he­re I ha­ve e­ver wor­ked be­fo­re, and a con­tri­bu­ting fac­tor to t­his is that very of­ten it plays it­self out on so­ci­al me­dia.

Gos­sip in t­his town s­hould be de­cla­red a no­ti­fi­a­ble di­se­a­se, it is so pro­li­fic.

On a Sa­tur­day mor­ning I get a W­hat­sApp mes­sa­ge on my per­so­nal pho­ne num­ber from the wi­fe of a coun­cil­lor as­king why the Knys­na-P­lett He­rald is not re­por­ting on vi­tal is­su­es that af­fect all in Kn­syna. I do not know w­hat vi­tal is­su­es she is re­fer­ring to and she may be per­fect­ly cor­rect in saying t­his.

T­his does, ho­we­ver, ruin my Sa­tur­day be­cau­se I wor­ry that may­be we ha­ve fai­led in re­por­ting so­mething that is very se­ri­ous – and of in­te­rest to the ra­te­pay­er.

A­not­her con­tact, w­hom I va­lue, sends me a mes­sa­ge saying that s­parks flew at the last coun­cil meet­ing. But t­his is po­li­ti­cs, af­ter all, and so­me meet­ings are bound to be com­bus­ti­ble – and hap­pen wit­hout ne­ces­sa­ri­ly ha­ving a­ny­thing tan­gi­ble to wri­te a­bout. I check ne­vert­he­less le­st we mis­sed a bon­fi­re, but are s­parks not the na­tu­re of the be­ast?

S­mo­ke, but no fi­re?

The­re are con­stant whis­pers and rumours he­ard a­round t­his town that the ma­yor is cor­rupt and that they de­pu­ty ma­yor is trying to ta­ke o­ver the town and is a bul­ly, that cer­tain acti­vis­ts in t­his town are con­nected to key ma­na­ge­ment po­si­ti­ons in the Kn­syna mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty and so it g­oes on ad nau­se­am.

I get fa­ce­less tip-offs a­bout va­ri­ous mu­ni­ci­pal and coun­cil mem­bers up to no good on va­ri­ous forms of so­ci­al me­dia.

A blog­ger has all but tras­hed my re­pu­ta­ti­on sin­ce I ha­ve been in Knys­na for not wri­ting po­li­ti­cal sto­ries, or wri­ting them with w­hat is per­cei­ved to be bi­as or in­suf­fi­cient facts.

Seems to me, dam­ned if we do and dam­ned if we don’t.

Su­re­ly now is the ti­me, if e­ver, that t­his town s­hould co­me to­get­her and not be di­vi­ded. The­re are still so ma­ny se­ri­ous fi­re is­su­es to be de­alt with that pet­ty per­so­nal and unsub­stan­ti­a­ted ne­ga­ti­ve o­pi­ni­ons s­hould be ban­ned or at le­ast ig­no­red.

But if t­his is the way so­me pe­op­le in t­his town choo­se to con­duct their af­fairs, w­hat I want to ma­ke pa­tent­ly cle­ar he­re is that t­his is not the way any de­cent news­pa­per, in­clu­ding Knys­naP­lett He­rald, o­pe­ra­tes.

Our du­ty is to re­port on any and e­ver­y­thing that af­fects the com­mu­ni­ty in G­re­a­ter Knys­na and Bi­tou a­re­as, good or bad, as long as it is fac­tu­al and ba­lan­ced.

If the­re are vi­tal is­su­es we are not re­por­ting on, then we need to find out why, but in a pro­fes­si­o­nal way.

If I get a let­ter com­plai­ning a­bout so­mething the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty is or is not (mo­re of­ten) doing, it is sent to the re­le­vant com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on chan­nel at the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty who then in­ves­ti­ga­te and sup­ply an ans­wer. Or we con­tact the po­li­ti­ci­an di­rect­ly.

If we see in the cour­se of our work so­mething that war­rants ans­wers from the ga­te­kee­pers of t­his town, then we fol­low the chan­nels and ask the que­s­ti­ons until we ha­ve the truth a­bout w­ha­te­ver the is­sue. T­his is do­ne by get­ting com­ment from all in­vol­ved and has to re­sult in a sto­ry that is to­tal­ly un­bi­a­sed and fair.

Tho­se who gos­sip in the fa­ce­less man­ner, that of co­wards, will not be en­ter­tai­ned.

We thank and va­lue tho­se re­a­ders and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who co­me for­ward, sit fa­ce-to-fa­ce and tell me or our jour­na­lis­ts their sto­ry. To all our gen­ui­ne con­tacts who let us know a­bout is­su­es we need to in­ves­ti­ga­te, thank you and I am not ha­ving a go at you he­re.

W­hat we do not do is rumours, fa­ce­less al­le­ga­ti­ons and so­meti­mes ut­ter, sim­ply me­an, rub­bish.

We can­not be accu­sed of not co­ve­ring thor­ny mu­ni­ci­pal is­su­es. W­hat co­mes to mind is the sto­ry of Sen­za, the Heads re­stau­rant that o­w­ned mil­li­ons to the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty and still does; the mosque w­he­re both si­des of the sto­ry we­re pre­sen­ted; the sto­ry of the de­pu­ty ma­yor’s wal­kout of a meet­ing; the re­sig­na­ti­on of a CFO; and the sus­pen­si­on and end of the last mu­ni­ci­pal ma­na­ger, which we­re all re­por­ted on.

Po­li­ti­cal sto­ries of t­his mag­ni­tu­de ha­ve to be told to our re­a­ders.

A­nyo­ne who feels as though we ha­ve not re­por­ted on vi­tal is­su­es, ple­a­se co­me and see us and we will glad­ly find out, via the cor­rect chan­nels, w­hat the sto­ry is.

We ha­ve no al­le­gi­an­ce to any one po­li­ti­cal par­ty or a­not­her.

I ha­ve no i­dea w­het­her de­pu­ty ma­yor Pe­ter My­ers who is fa­cing a DA in­ves­ti­ga­ti­on is guil­ty or not. It is not my job to de­ci­de or spe­cu­la­te, but rat­her to wait until the facts are sup­p­lied and then pu­blish ex­act­ly w­hat has hap­pe­ned, al­so fe­a­tu­ring his si­de of the sto­ry.

W­hat I would li­ke to stress he­re is that we do not ta­ke si­des. I ha­ve ne­ver had any re­a­son to form any o­pi­ni­on a­bout Pe­ter My­ers be­cau­se he has pro­ven to ha­ve in­te­gri­ty in the way he re­sponds to our que­s­ti­ons I ha­ve as­ked him. I don’t need an o­pi­ni­on a­bout him le­st t­his cloud my jud­ge­ment.

The sa­me g­oes for our ma­yor E­le­a­no­re Bouw-S­pies. She has ne­ver hid­den a­ny­thing from me w­hen I ha­ve as­ked her que­s­ti­ons, and w­hat pe­op­le do not re­a­li­se is that sin­ce the fi­res her li­fe has been hi­de­ous be­cau­se the­re are no ob­vi­ous so­lu­ti­ons to un­pre­ce­den­ted is­su­es that ha­ve a­ri­sen sin­ce then.

The day so­mebo­dy has p­roof that Bou­wS­pies or or any ot­her coun­cil mem­ber or po­li­ti­ci­an is doing a­ny­thing u­ne­thi­cal, bring the e­vi­den­ce and it is our du­ty to find out.

Sin­ce the­re are pe­op­le who com­plain on so­ci­al me­dia, stran­ge­ly not on­ce to my fa­ce, that our po­li­ti­cal re­por­ting is not up to scra­tch, t­his is w­hat we will be doing as from next week.

Plan of acti­on

We are going to ta­ke all 21 coun­cil­lors and in­vi­te them to ans­wer que­s­ti­ons, so­mething li­ke a S­pa­nish In­qui­si­ti­on, which we ho­pe will be help­ful.

The pe­op­le you vo­ted on will be as­ked to ac­count for w­hat they ha­ve do­ne sin­ce the last lo­cal go­vern­ment e­lecti­ons, talk a­bout is­su­es and ho­pe­ful­ly we will get a bet­ter feel for po­li­ti­cs from all in­vol­ved.

Re­a­ders will al­so be gi­ven a fo­rum on the sa­me pa­ge as the­se in­ter­views, to ask their spe­ci­fic ward coun­cil­lor a que­s­ti­on or com­ment which we will pre­sent to him or her.

And just to ma­ke it per­fect­ly cle­ar, we ha­ve no bi­as. The list of the­se que­s­ti­ons will be pu­blis­hed in t­his spa­ce next week – and then the coun­cil­lors will be in­ter­vie­wed al­p­ha­be­ti­cal­ly, from A­rends S­ha­ke­spea­re (ACDP) who is first on the con­tact list pro­vi­ded by the Knys­na mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty, en­ding with Mar­tin Young (DA) who is al­p­ha­be­ti­cal­ly the last na­me on the list.

See the que­s­ti­ons for the sto­ries we will be wri­ting next week – and feel free to add to the list s­hould you feel we ha­ve o­mit­ted so­mething im­por­tant.

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