In a South African municipality, a convicted child rapist and a convicted fraudster have been elected mayor and deputy mayor.
In 2008, while serving as mayor of the Kannaland Municipality in the Western Cape, Jeffrey Donson was convicted guilty of statutory rape and indecent assault and sentenced to prison, although he has since been re-elected.
Despite being convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice while serving as speaker, Werner Meshoa was elected as deputy mayor.
From gender-based violence organizations to charities that help with child rape victims, the election of both to high office has generated uproar across South Africa.
Mayor Donson was sentenced to only five years in prison for rape, but he appealed to the Western Cape High Court, which upheld his conviction but reduced his term.
Judge Lee Bozalek postponed the sentence for a sex attack on a youngster, instead fining him £1,000 and placing him in a sex offenders rehab program.
After being elected by 45 percent of the 25,000 voters, the two men now lead the municipality on the Garden Route in Western Province.
The African National Congress (ANC), which received 21% of the vote, backed the pair by forming a coalition with the Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa (ICOSA).
In June Meshoa was sentenced for fraud to 18 months jail or a £300 fine and a suspended four-year prison sentence for obstructing justice and 36 months house arrest.
It was later revealed that Meshoa was sacked from his position as a teacher in 2012 for serious sexual misconduct with a pupil but the matter was not reported to the police.
Despite their convictions for child rape and fraud, the electorate still voted them into office with the African National Congress backing their election.
Amid a storm of outrage, ICOSA chiefs refused to boot them out, saying they could only be forced out if they served a year in prison.
They then ran in the Kannaland local elections this month and the men were reelected.
ICOSA now governs the municipality with the ANC. Respected South African news outlet News24’s Out of Order Index says Kannaland is the second worst-performing municipality in the Western Cape.
Kannaland’s ANC speaker Nicolaas Valentyn nevertheless slammed News24 for revealing the Mayor and his Deputy are convicted criminals as an ‘insult to voters’.
He said: ‘The successful inaugural meeting was met with an almost gleeful News24 shriek that so-called unfit individuals had been elected as Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
‘ICOSA will never be diverted by clickbait headlines of lazy rants by gossips arrogating as journalists and individual faults and frailties are no reason to give in’ he said.
Action Society, a pressure group lobbying against gender-based violence, called for the new Mayor Donson and Deputy Mayor Meshoa to be removed from office immediately.
Spokesperson Ian Cameron said: ‘Residents in Kammaland should know their newly elected candidates for mayor and deputy mayor are both convicted criminals.
‘One is a convicted child rapist that received a slap on the wrist and the other one is a convicted fraudster and both were re-elected with the support of the ANC.
‘One of the highest paying jobs in the local municipality is filled by a child rapist and the other by a fraudster. This seems like a plot for a badly written movie script’ he said.
Opposition parties and Gender-Based Violence groups and NGO’s representing child victims of rape have demanded that Donson and Meshoa be removed from office.
They were put into power in a coalition agreement with the ANC who supported them.
ICOSA’s Western Cape leader David Kamfe hit back, saying: ‘The people have spoken and we ask people to respect that they voted for Mr Donson and for Mr Meshoa’.
The Commission for Gender Equity said: ‘We view this development as a slap in the face of the fight against GBV and intend to engage all relevant parties in this matter.’
ANC provincial spokesperson in Western Cape Sifiso Mitsweni confirmed ‘grave concerns’ had rightly been raised by its members and the public over their election.
He said: ‘As the ANC we have a fundamental commitment to fight gender based violence and to oppose corruption and fraud and it is a matter that we take very seriously.