DA leaders knew MEC was accused of electricity theft but promoted him nonetheless
13 August 2019
Party put disciplinary process on hold awaiting police investigation, while municipality was quietly prevented from pursuing criminal complaints for electricity theft.
As GOOD awaits Western Cape Premier Alan Winde's response to whistle-blowers' evidence that one of his newly appointed MECs, Tertuis Simmers, was guilty of electricity theft while serving as a DA councillor in George, damning new evidence of a cover-up has emerged.
DA members have confirmed that prima facie evidence of theft by MEC Simmers was discovered and brought to the attention of the DA's Provincial Leadership.
In 2018 the complaint was apparently referred by the Provincial Leadership to the DA's Provincial Disciplinary Committee, but the committee did not act because it was awaiting the outcome of a SAPS investigation.
Although the allegation that Simmers stole electricity was reported to the George Police the investigation appears to have ground to a halt after the DA George Council amended the Meter Tampering Policy so as to prevent officials from reporting electricity theft to SAPS for investigation.
Instead of being held accountable, the former George Councillor was first promoted to the provincial parliament as an MPL and then promoted again, to Premier Winde's much-heralded "government of higher integrity".
According to George Municipality's Director of Finance, electricity theft cases remain unresolved as, "it is the current practice not to report such matters (persons) to the South African Police Service" in terms of the new council Meter Tamper Policy. That new tamper policy was approved by Councillors, including those accused of electricity theft.
When GOOD submitted a dossier of evidence to the Premier two weeks ago, MEC Simmers disputed that it was he who had tampered with the meter at the house in which he lived in George.
However, I have now seen copies of emails that were sent to MECs Bredell and Madikizela, written by concerned DA members, containing prima facie evidence of theft requiring investigation.
The correspondence records that "Mr Simmers ... was caught stealing electricity. The case went missing, after according to rumours the officials went and withdrew the case not because of no evidence but because pressure (sic)."
After the case was reported to MEC Bredell, evidence indicates that the DA Provincial leadership attempted to persuade the complainants to "bury" the case, but DA members in George insisted they would not be part of that.
The George Municipality's Director of Finances confirmed that, as of February 2019, amounts owed by Councillors for electricity theft remained unpaid.
Prior to the amendment of the municipal tamper policy by the DA councillors in George, the alleged theft of electricity by Simmers was reported to the police.
Last week I wrote to the SAPS Acting Provincial Commissioner for the Western Cape for official clarity on the status of the case.
The manner in which the DA handled the case after it had been reported to MECs Bredell and Madikizela was unusual in that it was referred to a Provincial Disciplinary Committee instead of the Federal Legal Commission (FLC).
The DA has a longstanding rule that disciplinary matters relating to public representatives are dealt with by its FLC while Provincial Disciplinary Committees deal with complaints against ordinary members.
Simmers' appointment as an MEC makes a mockery of Premier Winde's promises about lifestyle audits and leading a government of integrity.
I continue to await the Premier's explanation for Simmers' appointment, and to hear what action he will be taking to remedy the situation.
I also await the response from the Acting Police Commissioner.
Issued by Brett Herron, Secretary-General for GOOD, Member of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, 13 August 2019