Bredell probes Bitou bribery allegations
PLETTENBERG BAY - The Bitou Municipality has until 1 October to respond to questions to allegations of interference, bribery and corruption surrounding the controversial Qolweni housing project. Western Cape MEC for Local Government Anton Bredell has requested information from the municipality about these allegations and the recent "irregular" appointments of senior staff. The bribery allegations came to light during a Western Cape High Court application involving the project, which was at the heart of violent protest action in Plettenberg Bay earlier this year. The court documents contained allegations that some of Bitou's officials demanded large bribes from contractors to ensure their successful bidding.
The local DA raised concerns about the allegations with Bredell and last week the MEC announced he had requested information from the municipality. He gave the municipality 30 days to respond. Constituency chair for the DA in Bitou Dave Swart said over and above the bribery allegations, senior appointments had been made between January and June this year. These, he said, were irregular as they were not reported as required by Regulation
17 of the Regulations on Appointment and Conditions of Employment of Senior Management.
The DA is not the only party to have demanded action in this regard. Local party Ikhwezi Political Movement (IPM) has approached the Public Prosecutor's office as well as Corruption Watch, requesting an investigation into the "looting".
This came after they launched a petition, which was supported by more than a thousand concerned Bitou residents, calling on the Western Cape government to intervene in local affairs after the allegations of bribery and corruption surfaced.
The petition called on provincial government to not only place the municipality under administration, but also to suspend six top officials implicated in the housing project allegations.
Bredell’s spokesperson Rowena van Wyk said should the MEC not receive a response from the municipality by the date stipulated, he would assume the municipality does not intend commenting on the allegations. “He can then proceed to objectively assess the relevant information in his possession to determine whether and to what extent further steps need to be taken to investigate and/or address the allegations,” Van Wyk said. She added that after the assessment, if he believed that the municipality cannot or does not fulfil a statutory obligation binding on the municipality or that maladministration, fraud, corruption or any other serious malpractice had occurred or was occurring, he could designate investigators to investigate the matter.