Got an issue? Call a politician

2015-05-26 10:17
DA leader Mmusi Maimane's number has also be added to the list.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane's number has also be added to the list. (File)

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IF you have ever wanted to call a political leader and give him or her a piece of your mind, now you can.

Controversy surrounds a list of personal contact details for political party heads, mayors, union leaders, national ministers and provincial public servants that a small organisation is in the process of releasing to the public.

The KwaZulu-Natal-based iNjeje yamaNguni council — “United Council of the Nguni Youth” — yesterday released the first batch of cellphone numbers for public servants and political leaders to media houses, with plans to print thousands of copies of this list to display in public areas like taxi ranks, malls and schools. They have already released the list on their Facebook page and via Twitter and WhatsApp.

iNjeje representative Thabiso Zulu said yesterday: “If these leaders claim to represent the public, then the public should be able to contact them.

“These people come to our homes to campaign before elections, hand out KFC and kiss babies. Now the people can call them after elections and say ‘the KFC is finished and our community is starving’.”

He said their mandate stems from a significant number of Nguni communities believing that it is also necessary for them to be able to thank their public servants for their strides within their communities, and to offer them advice where necessary.

“Our people made it clear that as voters and employers of public servants, they have every right to contact them directly and are expecting that public servants will appreciate this opportunity to be contacted by their employers directly,” Zulu said.

Day by day, the organisation will release and distribute numbers with the hope that, by the end of the week, all numbers requested will be in the public domain.

The first list includes the numbers of party leaders such as Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema, KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu, mayors, provincial MECs and national ministers.

Zulu said the organisation had no “sinister motives”, although it would not accept responsibility for any abuse or misuse of the numbers released.

There was a mixed reaction from some of the leaders whose contact numbers were singled out in the first batch yesterday.

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane said the party created as many platforms as possible for people to contact them on and express their views, but calling over the phone is the least effective.

“We are in the public domain, but there is always a risk of people abusing our numbers,” Maimane said.

Mchunu was not enamoured with the idea.

“I don’t feel good that they [iNjeje] have done this without my permission. It sounds like this organisation wants to promote themselves more than their cause. This is taking things a bit too far and it is not done in any other countries,” the premier said.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Malema said he had no problem with members of the public calling him, and instead questioned why President Jacob Zuma’s name did not appear on the list.

“My number is all over; it is not an issue for me. I have people calling me all the time, voicing their concerns, but why is Zuma’s number not there? Why is Buthelezi’s number not there, and why is Zille’s number not there?

“His [Zuma’s] number must be made public so people can ask him when he is going to pay back the money. If the public asks him, he will realise it is not Malema that wants to know, but the people of South Africa.

“Zuma said he was a people’s man when he came into presidency, so I challenge him to give his number to the public.”

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) national chairperson Blessed Gwala said releasing his number was not a problem for him.

“People want to speak directly to the MEC even about minor issues. This is why we have personal assistants. If we take calls all day, we won’t have time for anything else.

“I don’t have a problem with it as long as people don’t abuse it,” he said.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister Bheki Cele said as long as someone was working for and was paid by the government, their number should be public.

“Wherever I go, I shout out my number. If you are paid by the government at the end of every month, then you must have a public number.”

Economic Development, Tourism and Environment Affairs MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu shared the same sentiment.

“I do not have a problem with my number being distributed, but with over 10 million people in KZN, I hope it is not open to abuse … some issues cannot be solved over the phone,” Mabuyakhulu added.

Right2Know campaign provincial co-ordinator Phezu Mtethu agreed that officials’ contact numbers should be made available, calling for transparency in political institutions

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