Hysterical reports of the protest in the mainstream media claimed the dismissed grooms had stabbed and maimed horses.
Two residents of ward 40 in Port Elizabeth want their ward councillor investigated for a conflict of interest after they were injured during a recent strike by horse grooms at Fairview Racing Course.
Zukile Matshisi and Nkosibonile Maqhuthela were part of residents of Fairview informal settlement who were protesting on 17 September when they were injured by security guards purportedly employed by a company owned by their local councillor.
The protest started after 40 horse grooms who had been dismissed by Yvette Bremner Stables in February accused it’s owner of refusing to sign the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) forms needed for them to claim from the fund.
The grooms were dismissed after one of them was fired for injuring a horse while trimming its coat. Other workers demanded Bremner pay the worker all his termination benefits and when she refused, they stopped working in solidarity with their dismissed colleague. This prompted Yvette Bremner to dismiss all of them.
The disgruntled workers, who had not received any income since February and said that their families were starving, subsequently regrouped on 17 September, still demanding that Bremner sign their UIF forms.
When Bremner allegedly again refused to sign the forms, she unleashed a private security company, Nitrous Security, on the workers. The workers reacted by opening the stables which resulted in all the horses fleeing, some sustaining multiple wounds from the stampede and one dying.
Allegations of conflict of interest
Matshisi and Maqhuthela said they later discovered that their local councillor, Clr Grobbelaar, is a partner in Nitrous Security. On 30 September, they wrote to Clr Buyelwa Mafaya, Speaker of the Nelson Mandela Bay Council, urging her to investigate and take appropriate action against Clr Grobbelaar.
In the petition, Maqhuthela states, “I write to you to lodge a formal complaint against ward 40 councillor Jason Grobbelaar. I am a community member that resides in ward 40 at Fairview township. I was one of the workers that engaged in a strike at the Fairview Racecourse on 17 September, 2020.
“Upon the conclusion of the strike, many of us were followed into our township by a vehicle belonging to Nitrous Security. A man by the name of Kevin who was inside this vehicle fired rounds of live ammunition in our township and in a public space. I was hit by one of those bullets on the leg and I was hospitalized for several days. I am currently on crutches and I fear that my leg will never be the same again.”
Affirming that Grobbelaar owns the security company, Maqhuthela continues, “It is clear that Jason Grobbelaar has abandoned his duties as a ward councillor and has placed his business interests above the people he is supposed to serve. Surely it cannot be within the ethics of councillors to be involved in businesses that inflict violence upon the very same community members they are supposed to serve. Jason Grobbelaar is conflicted and entangled because of his business affairs.”
In his statement, Matshisi says, “During the strike, I was run over by a vehicle owned by Nitrous Security. It later emerged that this security company that is responsible for injuring me is owned by Jason Grobbelaar, our ward councillor.
“It is clear that it will now be impossible for me to ever go to Clr Jason Grobbelaar because my trust for him no longer exists. I request that you investigate this complaint and that the ethics of Jason Grobbelaar be placed under a spotlight for his involvement in this serious matter.”
Councillor Grobbelaar responds
Nelson Mandela Bay municipal ward 40 councillor, Jason Grobbelaar, said that he could not disclose anything about the ownership of Nitrous Security since the case is “sub judice”.
He failed to answer his phone and Elitsha instead received an automated message inviting any queries to be sent via WhatsApp. The text message included contact numbers for municipal and electricity related issues, and for public fire and ambulance services. The contact number for Nitrous Security, a private company, was also given.
Duly texting him, Grobbelaar replied: “I saw a political party has opened a case with SAPS in this regard, as this is sub judice, I can not respond. The case is under judiciary consideration and therefore it is prohibited from public discussion.”
Speaker of the NMBM Council, Buyelwa Mafaya, said she had not received the letters written by Matshisi and Maqhuthela.