Letter to The Editor: Ethekwini Change By-Law an Effort to Reduce Openness

South Africa’s cities are progressively symbolic of our nation’s moving political landscape. Cities run by dedicated federal governments have had the ability to substantially influence the daily lives of their residents, using development to make things work and turning their fortunes around. Great city governments make it perfectly clear that this is where the rubber strikes the roadway and people’s lives are most seriously impacted.

The reverse is also real. Terribly run cities are rapidly coming down into large turmoil. No place is that more apparent than eThekwini Municipality. The city’s financial development has pertained to a total stop, predicted at simply 0.3% for 2017. Standard services are significantly bad and inefficient expense is regular. A dedicated federal government would do whatever they might to deal with these issues- increasing openness and responsibility, entrenching democratic procedures and paying attention to neighborhoods.

eThekwini’s politicians have other concepts.

The proposed Rules of Order Amendment by-law presents an unsafe hazard to the democratic performance of the city’s federal government. The function of this by-law is to manage the performance of the eThekwini Council, but the proposed modifications restricts the voices of smaller sized parties, enable the Speaker and Committee Chairs unnecessary power, and threatens the capability of the media and public to include themselves in eThekwini’s decision-making.

The Democratic Alliance caucus in the city made comprehensive submissions on both the spirit and letter of this badly prepared modification. They have been mostly neglected. It is basically undemocratic and in parts, unconstitutional, plainly signaling what we found out a long time back– that the ANC is more thinking about covering their errors than doing anything to repair them.

The DA handled to stall its adoption at October’s council meeting, but it will be tabled once again in early December.

The ANC-led council tried to embrace the by-law despite the last file just being offered to councilors the day before or the early morning of the Council meeting. The Constitution specifies that members of the local council need to be offered affordable notification of any by-law being tabled.

Members of the public had also been ejected from the meeting and the doors closed, which makes up a closed meeting. Right2Know protesters had been rejected access to City Hall. The law is very clear: by-laws might not be tabled at closed conferences.

The modification by-law’s most worrying changes permit Executive Committee conferences to be near the public, consisting of the media, where “it is sensible to do so”. Efficiently, this permits the Mayor (as the Chair of Exco) to choose to close conferences at an impulse with no real requirements. Conferences might also not be tape-recorded by the media without approval of the Speaker. This might considerably hamper the media’s capability to properly report on procedures. These are public conferences- why cannot they be taped?

The proposed modifications would not enable councilors to relay choices from conferences up until the meeting is total. The Speaker, Councilor William Mapena, declared in his submissions that this is because of “councilors communicating deceptive and insufficient details which paint the town in a bad light”. Successfully, he does not want councilors to be able to relay council choices on social media because the ANC isn’t able to spin the choices quick enough. They wish to have the ability to manage the political story by themselves terms. This approximate guideline looks to prevent openness and is illogical due to the participation the public in city government as imagined in the Constitution.

The modification by-law forbids making use of any “disparaging viewpoint or allegation”, which will unquestionably be used to restrict criticism of the ANC’s governance. It also permits the Speaker to stop for dispute on any movement put before the council and require a vote. Movements are regularly used by opposition parties to place matters on the council’s program and accentuate problems dealt with by neighborhoods. This guideline will generally enable the Speaker to close the argument and restrict the voices of chosen councilors.

The flexibility of speech and expression is a basic value of our constitution, but are not provided any expression in this proposal. Minority rights are likewise secured, but this would successfully enable the Speaker to railway smaller sized parties without any option offered to them.

This change by-law is plainly an effort to entrench the power of those in control and reduce openness. It enables Committee Chairpersons the right to make unilateral choices where it is not “possible” or “useful” for the committees to meet. eThekwini is infamous for this type of decision-making- leaving things for the eleventh hour and after that using arrangements of the Municipal Financial Management Act to overturn procurement procedures. Anything can become an emergency if you are not happy to plan correctly, and this guideline will most definitely be used to close down interrogation of suspicious choices.

After the 2016 election, the city’s Finance and Procurement Committee was liquified and their functions were taken straight to the Executive Committee. The capability for councilors to question the city’s financial resources is becoming progressively minimal, while inefficient expense and dodgy procurement choices appear to have sky-rocketed.

The DA’s efforts to place arrangements requiring the Speaker to offer correct validation for his judgments were disregarded. We want the Speaker to need to comply with guidelines before cutting councilors off and ejecting councilors from the council chamber. Progressively, opposition councilors are arbitrarily silenced whilst ANC councilors are enabled to easily break the guidelines.

The changes also permit the Speaker to select personal security to eliminate councilors from the chamber when he so guidelines. This will unquestionably start to look like the disarray of the National Assembly, where the guidelines are imposed with an iron fist by armed males and females.

The scenario in eThekwini is becoming alarming. The inefficient expense has sky-rocketed, our local economy is stagnating, and the shipment of standard services is bad. We have slipped behind Tshwane in the rankings of financial development. Clearly, there is no plan. The council is suggested to be the place where these concerns are attended to. Rather of taking the proverbial bull by the horns, the ANC have rather turned to authoritarian procedures to restrict the function of the opposition, media and regular people in council procedures.

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