City approves ‘gag’ bylaw amidst protests

eThekwini municipality speaker, William Mapena.

THE controversial ‘gag’ bylaw amendment was approved by a majority vote at an eThekwini council meeting on Wednesday.

Despite claims by opposition party councillors and civil society who claimed the proposed Rules of Order amendment bylaw was unconstitutional, the ANC-led council said there was nothing untoward amount the amendment and that while the Constitution and Municipal Systems Act stated that council meetings must be open to the public, legsilation was provided for some meetings to be closed to the public subject to the nature of the issues under discussion.

These issues include where there may be disclosure of confidential or privileged information regarding any person to the public; where any investigation, report or internal audit report which is in the course of consideration, could be compromised by its public disclosure; and where there may be disclosure of any trade secrets of the Municipality or financial, business, scientific or technical information other than trade secrets which are likely to cause prejudice to the business or interests of the Municipality.

ALSO READ: Civil society stages protest over city’s proposed ‘gag’ bylaw

Any individual from the media is also prevented from recording proceedings on any type of device without permission from the Speaker or Chairperson of Exco. The media can, however, take down written notes of proceedings.

While the matter was under discussion members of various civic organisations staged a protest outside the ICC, demanding that council and Exco withdraw them. In a join statement they said the amendment effectively means that  important decisions such as the awarding of tenders, or reports of investigations into misconduct and corruption, would be hidden from the public. This would open the way to local government capture, they said.

ALSO READ: Council defers ‘gag’ bylaw

Organisations who supported the protest included:  Active Citizens Movement (ACM), Right2Know Campaign, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), Abahlali baseMjondolo, South African Muslim Network (SAMNET), Ubunye Bamahostela, Market Users Committee/SA informal Traders Forum, Democracy Development Program (DDP), C2U, Siyakhana – Ecumenical Community of the Paraclete, Silverglen Civic Association, Yellowood Park Ratepayers Association,, Elisheuk Youth NPO, 1860 Legacy Foundation, Chatsworth Poverty Alleviation Body, Durban Group of Amnesty International, Phoenix Drug Action Committee, Reservoir Hills Ratepayers Association, Mobeni Heights Ratepayers Association, Greenwood Park Ratepayers Association, Merebank Justice Network and The Dennis Hurley Centre.

Speaker William Mapena said the Rules of Order Amendment By-law had been amended to insert certain definitions, provide clarity in respect of dissolution of the Council and to provide for circumstances in terms of which the Executive Committee could close its meeting to the public and media as well as to provide clarity on matters pertaining to the attendance of councillors at meetings.

 

 

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Wanda Daly
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