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Mayor requests investigation following reports of irregularities at Barrydale Ward election

Ward election
Written by Mickey Mentz

Municipal Manager tasked to provide answers within 10 work days

Swellendam Local Municipality Executive Mayor, Francois Du Rand, has launched a probe to determine whether there is any truth to claims that the result of the Barrydale Ward Committee election was manipulated by his deputy, Michael Pokwas.

Du Rand yesterday (February 24) requested that Municipal Manager, Anton Groenewald, conduct a full investigation to see whether the proces and outcome of the election was free and fair.

If Pokwas failed to follow procedure, residents will in all likelihood be requested to recast their votes.

Neighbourhood watch chairman fingers Pokwas

Just hours after the completion of the ward 2 committee elections which took place at the Fort Haven Community Centre on February 22, a barrage of text messages claiming that the election was rigged circulated on various chat groups in town.

“We have been conned, our trust violated and taken for a ride,” the message read.

It was later confirmed that the message thread, which included a detailed breakdown of all votes,  was distributed by Neighbourhood Watch chairman Charles Payne.

Zoid

In these messages Payne indicated that, after the votes were counted, Ward Councillor (and deputy Mayor) Michael Pokwas decided to give preference to three candidates who had secured less votes than the top 10 who were due to serve on the committee.

The three candidates who were omitted despite having more votes were Hannette Cooke, Alan Hardakar and Schalk Windt.

In their place Marilene Pokwas (women), Jacolin Windvogel (sport) and Ferdinand du Toit (churches) received the nod based on the portfolios they represented.

After the vote count and announcement of the preliminary results Payne voiced his concern to Michael Pokwas and Director of Corporate Services, Anneleen Vorster – and he made mention of this appeal in the text messages.

However, what Payne neglected to mention was the fact that Vorster made it painstakingly clear that the results were preliminary and that an official announcement from Swellendam Municipality would be made once an internal audit was completed.

News62 was present when this statement was made and can report that there were no irregularities as far as the vote count was concerned.

Pokwas later admitted that he should have been clearer that several portfolios within the Ward Committee had to be filled.

He had assumed that the nominated candidates knews that they would serve in these various roles.

Pokwas nonetheless thanked the community who came out in their numbers to participate in this process.

Low turn-out at important meeting

What should be more concerning than the controversy surrounding this ward committee election is that the turnout to elect what will effectively be a complaints committee was far greater than that of the Independent Development Planning (IDP) meeting which took place the previous week.

READ: Residents raise concerns at IDP

During the IDP meeting residents were given the opportunity to help local government prepare a budget for the next five years.

Payne later forwarded his messages to Du Rand, with the request that immediate action has to be taken.

Of late Du Rand has been inundated with requests to attend to several pressing issues that Barrydale residents have brought under his attention and he gave his assurance that he would attend to these matters as soon as possible.

As the new mayor of Swellendam Municipaity, Du Rand had previously made an effort to engage with the community but that question and answer session which was due to take place in the NG Church Hall in December never materialised due to a rainstorm.

Du Rand has, nonetheless, given his assurance that all matters that are of concern to Barrydale residents would be addressed and that the he will make it his mission to prove that there is no truth to the perception that Barrydale is but a stepchild of the municipality.

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About the author

Mickey Mentz

From my Barrydale base, my goal is to tell the stories of people and places on the picturesque R62. Ek het oor die jare 'n cappuccino verslawing ontwikkel en my hond se naam is Bella.

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