Racism has taken centre stage at George Municipality

28 October 2022

Racism has taken centre stage at George Municipality

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) in the Western Cape has noted with concern the media statement by the Municipal Manager (MM) of George Local Municipality (Dr Michel Gratz) dated 13 October 2022. As SAMWU, we are disappointed but not surprised that the Accounting Officer of the municipality has resorted to misinformation and misleading statements.

What the MM (Dr Gratz) is not telling the community whether she has the right to overturn decisions of Presiding Officers appointed by her office, and which clause in the Disciplinary Procedure and Code Collective Agreement (DPCCA) gave her such authority. She is challenging her own processes as the person giving the approval to instigate disciplinary actions against an employee.

The process of disciplinary process becomes an independent process, where presiding officers must act impartially. She might as well act as presiding officer of all these matters if she will continue to challenge outcomes of disciplinary hearings that are not to her satisfaction. Funny enough the MM (Dr Gratz) is only challenging disciplinary hearing outcomes of people of colour and white counterpart hearings are kept a secret and she does not reveal the same matters as it is a matter of interest to SAMWU. Why is it that the MM does not reveal cases of her white counterparts in the media like she boldly revealed matters related to people of colour in the media? SAMWU is of the opinion the MM must be brought to book for revealing these matters on the media.

The DPCCA does not make provision for an MM to take the outcomes of a disciplinary process on review or alter the sanction of a presiding officer. This is an act of pure racism, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. She is only influencing the disciplinary processes of people of colour and disciplinary action of white counterparts remains a secret in George Municipality. How do you appeal against the outcomes of your own disciplinary processes? This is the factual argument that SAMWU has consistently articulated on the vindictive, frivolous, and vexatious actions of this arrogant MM.

The employer (George Municipality) has advertised positions in the labour relations section of which disputes are pending at the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC). They are desperate to fill these vacancies without considering that awards might be in favour of the applicant with an order of retrospective reinstatement, and the employer would have wasted ratepayers’ money on costly adverts and deemed them as fruitless and wasteful expenditures. Yet the MM is claiming to be acting in the best interest of the organization and community at large. Taking matters on review with no merits is a waste of resources.

Racism has taken centre stage at George Municipality. The MM (Dr Michel Gratz) has become a law unto herself. Employees of colour are being dismissed like flies daily as compared to their white counterparts. Secretive deals are made silently with white employees. These are facts and the statistics speak volumes in comparison. The statistics of 36 and 2% that she alluded to in her article are not a true reflection and were misleading. At the last LLF held Monday (24th October 2022), SAMWU has requested a report on disciplinary hearings, disputes, and grievances since her appointment in January 2021 and we are convinced that statistics will portray a totally different picture. The actions of the MM on disciplinary actions are no longer aiming at correcting the behaviour of employees but are being subjected to punitive measures.

SAMWU can already predict the outcomes of the recruitment and selection process for the labour relations positions, where Michel Gratz will appoint her white puppets from Mosselbay Municipality to further advance her vindictive agenda. This is one of the reasons she is in such a rush to fill these vacancies. SAMWU is committed to dismantling this racist agenda and our sneakers are idling and ready to take this fight to the streets.

This is the same Municipal Manager that challenged a legal strike of SAMWU last year in June 2021 through an urgent application to court to interdict the strike, claiming that it was an illegal strike. SAMWU is still demanding that the Council of George Municipality must hold her personally liable for all legal costs where she acted in her personal capacity for approaching courts on reviews and labour matters with no merits. Records of all legal matters and costs linked to the matters related to the strike and reviews must be made available to the next Council meeting where the MM account as head of administration.

There are several aspects that SAMWU was not in the agreement relating to the Recruitment and Selection Policy where we demanded the total scrap of certain clauses that we saw as a danger to a fair and transparent process as they were contradictory in nature. This policy is coupled with the Acting Allowance Policy which is disadvantaging our members and is not in line with the Staff Regulations. The employer is not implementing these two (2) policies consistently in terms of minimum requirements to act in vacant posts and the maximum period of up to nine (9) months.

SAMWU has officially submitted a demand to the Mayor and Office of the Speaker for the immediate suspension of the MM pending investigation pertaining to a list of serious allegations against her. There are unlawful appointments made and decisions taken without the approval of the Council. We strongly believe the Accounting Officer has acted outside her mandate. SAMWU is of the opinion that some of the decisions taken are a total abuse of power and a waste of Council resources resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

SAMWU has already embarked on a mass mobilization plan to march against the municipality for failing to address our long outstanding unresolved grievances, calling for an immediate investigation pertaining to irregularities leading to the MM’s appointment, suspension, and termination of Dr Michel Gratz’s contract of employment with immediate effect by MEC Anton Bredell. SAMWU is going to march against this municipality until our demands are addressed by the racist and arrogant administration of Leon Van Wyk and Michel Gratz. We are calling on all progressive forces and the community of George to join hands with SAMWU in their quest to break the shackles of racism at the George Municipality.

Lastly, the fact that the MM had the guts to boldly reveal disciplinary details of staff in the media is a gross irregularity in terms of the Council’s Media policies and she must be charged for that. SAMWU has records of staff members who were charged and dismissed for comments and video footage on social media with disputes still pending. Therefore, SAMWU is demanding that disciplinary actions be taken against the MM for disclosing confidential information of staff-related matters to the media. Being the Accounting Officer does not make her special or untouchable and is bound to the very same Code of Conduct for Employees of the Council. The actions of this MM and her handlers clearly have an undertone of racism. The appointment of Smart Ryk is also a confirmation of a racist project at the George Municipality.

Issued by SAMWU Western Cape

John Mcanjana
Provincial Secretary
073 644 9580 / 064 628 0000


Peter Africa
Provincial Organiser
061 593 9016