The mayor of the embattled Otjozondjupa town Grootfontein has written a scathing letter to minister of urban and rural development Erastus Uutoni, accusing him of ignoring the town’s troubles and council’s pleas for solutions.
In a strongly-worded letter, Talitha Garises blames the current shambles the town council finds itself in on “wolves from Windhoek”.
She doesn’t mince her words in putting the troubles squarely at the door of the minister for his lack of interest in their affairs. According to her, the minister has been ignoring their plight until he intervened with their rightful decision to suspend CEO Kisco Sinvula last week.
This, she said, was done according to the Act that governs local authorities. As a council, they endeavour to govern the municipality to the best interest of its residents. But their efforts are frustrated by external persons with skewed interests, which has nothing to do with creating a better town for the residents, the mayor added.
In a letter dated 29 March 2022 to the town’s mayor and council, Uutoni said the Grootfontein municipality did not consult him before suspending Sinvula, and directed council to rescind the decision.
Garises said Sinvula is accused of several serious breaches of the Local Authorities Act as well as corruption. But the minister ignored their continuous pleas for his intervention, and when they took steps, he jumped in to defend Sinvula.
A case in point, she said, was the fact that a council meeting was not held within seven days of the councillors being sworn in, as prescribed by the Act, as well as her unlawful removal as mayor. Despite the fact that as minister he has the authority to intervene, he miserably failed to save the town.
Notwithstanding several letters to his office about the CEO’s failure to properly manage the town’s affairs and his insubordination, which has a detrimental effect on service delivery, the minister did nothing as the ‘wolves from Windhoek’ continue to disintegrate the town of Grootfontein, the letter from the mayor read.
“We, as a council, have become accustomed to the honourable minister simply ignoring our letters. In fact, honourable minister, I had tears in my eyes when I read a newspaper article that seems to have you quoted as having said that God should intervene and save Grootfontein. In all honesty, honourable minister, you have a selective approach to dealing with violations of the law and are contributing to the chaos, and not assisting at all,” the mayor wrote.
She further said the council, therefore, took a firm decision to act, and interpreted the Act and the rules to find a mechanism to suspend the CEO, whereafter they briefed the minister in a letter dated 24 March 2022.
The mayor asked how they could have sought the minister’s approval before suspending the CEO if he ignores their letters, and there never is any guarantee that he would respond to them. Unless, of course, as it now appears, it is to jump to the defence of the suspended CEO.
The mayor said they considered the seriousness of the allegation against the CEO and the possible risk that his continued presence poses to the Grootfontein municipality in their decision to suspend him.
According to the mayor, the suspension of the CEO will remain unless the minister can give an assurance that he has investigated the allegations against the CEO and finds them untruthful.
The council has been in the news lately for a barrage of suspensions and resignations.
Garises, whom Uutoni addressed the letter to, served as mayor for less than a week before she was suspended and recalled by the Swapo district executive committee towards the end of February.
She was sworn in as Grootfontein mayor on 17 February, but faced suspension along with other party cadres for allegedly supporting members of the opposition for management committee positions.
Both Uutoni and Mukwaita Shanyengana, who is the chairperson of Swapo’s national leaders assigned to the Otjozondjupa region, have expressed frustration with the infighting of the party in the region.