In 2008, Mayor Jeffery Donson received another title alongside ‘mayor’ – namely that of a child rapist, one convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl. He was also found guilty of indecent assault. Last week, as a consequence of the local government elections he was elected as mayor once again where he will ‘run’ Kannaland, a municipality in our Western Cape.
‘Convicted child-rapist elected as mayor in South Africa’ now haunts headlines in our country – and activists are rightly questioning how this happened, as well as what we can do about it as they push for agendas to have Donson step down.
The reclamation of Donson’s title came about after Icosa (Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa) formed a coalition government with the ANC as The Daily Maverick reports. Largely due to the structure of our electoral system in SA – a council was responsible for allowing the election of Donson as the mayor executive to come into fruition.
The public’s response:
Activist groups in SA have spoken out against Donson and have called on him to step down.
Childline’s national director Dumisile Nala says the re-election of Jeffrey Donson as Kannaland mayor sends the wrong message. “We should be taking a very firm stance against people convicted of sexual violence crimes. It is important that we stop, reflect and redirect our moral compass to ensure the protection of children and young people at all costs,” Nala said in an official media statement on the matter.
The government’s response:
Following public pressure, the ANC held a special meeting on Friday wherein which they announced the review of the coalition agreement, which turned into a decision made over the weekend to not support any form of gender-based violence.
“Amongst the reports received, was the coalition agreement reached with the Independent Civics Organisation of South Africa which led to the constitution of various municipalities,” said ANC spokesperson in the Western Cape Sifiso Mtsweni as per IOL.
“The ANC reiterates its position that discussions and agreements on coalitions should be based on our set principles of ensuring the stability of municipalities, good governance, tough stance against corruption, strict adherence to the rule of law as well as the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. This includes our fight against all forms of gender-based violence,” Mtsweni further expressed.
“Recent and ongoing media enquiries about my 2008 conviction on statutory rape and indecent assault have greatly startled and disrupted my family and me. Although the event is years old, it haunts me still and mortal wounds are bleeding again,” said Donson.
“I had indicated that I would be reflecting and applying my mind, and I have determined that I will spend the weekend with my family to consider and decide the future. I will respond on Monday,” said Donson.
What does this say about the electoral system in South Africa:
As the Daily Maverick penned, although the ANC is sitting on the opposition benches toward Donson now, which naturally is essential to their over-arching mantra to stand against GBV in South Africa, we can’t ignore the fact that it was ANC and Icosa councillors forming the committee in Kannaland who not only allowed Donson’s position but were part of the voting process. This speaks to the electoral system at play in our country, and shows us how swiftly indirect democracies can allow things to fall through the cracks. It speaks to how accountability is toyed with at the best of times.
It speaks to the flaws of our PR electoral system that gives us choice, but not all of it. Choice in the broad ( in terms of choosing parties) but not the nitty-gritty (direct leadership).
Perhaps Donson’s position, beyond the moral and ethical questioning that has no doubt arisen, will also beg South Africans to consider not the decisions we make alone, but rather the decisions we do not make.