AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit directed a letter to the Mayor of the Bergrivier Municipality this week over allegations that Adv. Hanlie Linde had resumed her duties as Municipal Manager on 20 July. This follows after the unit assisted several residents of Dwarskersbos during the municipal investigation into alleged misconduct during the lockdown by Jerome Pedro and Tertius Pool, traffic officers of the Bergrivier Municipality, as well as Adv. Linde.
The Private Prosecution Unit has learned that disciplinary action was to be taken against Pedro, after a special meeting of the Municipal Board on 18 July, but that no action would be taken against Adv. Linde.
Ludwig Gericke and his wife Mari also testified in July that Adv. Linde’s findings in the initial municipal investigation, as well as her comments about the incident, were disturbing and demeaning. The municipality lead by Adv. Linde initially handled the investigation into the conduct of Pedro and Pool and found nothing wrong with the way they acted. The findings were shared with the media. Adv. Linde made demeaning comments about the Gerickes on her personal blog. Neither the Mayor nor the municipality has since done anything to publicly rectify the perceptions that were created by Adv. Linde’s statement.
“If one takes the nature of the public comments made by the Municipal Manager into consideration, the silence from the Mayor’s office is alarming. The assumption can therefore be made that this office supports and approves of the degrading comments made by Adv. Linde – that some members of the community deserve the virus,” says Natasha Venter, Manager of Campaigns at AfriForum.
During the formal investigation, witnesses were given the opportunity to comment on Pedro and Pool’s versions. However, Adv. Etienne Vermaak, chairperson of the municipal investigation that was done in July, never presented the Municipal Manager’s version of the events or the opinion of the Board to AfriForum’s clients. The assumption that the Bergrivier Municipality approves of the comments and actions of the Municipal Manager is confirmed by the municipality’s silence on the matter.
“The Private Prosecution Unit is seeing an increase in this disturbing trend where elected officials hide behind lawyers and official processes, instead of serving the communities who elected them into their positions. It is worrisome that community members had to approach AfriForum before the municipality was willing to listen to their version of the events,” says Andrew Leask, Chief Investigator at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.