Not signing again

2015-09-23 10:12
Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela at the media launch of the State of the City address yesterday.

Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela at the media launch of the State of the City address yesterday. (Kailene Pillay)

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A DECISION by Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela and city manager Mxolisi Nkosi to have councillors sign a declaration to keep mum on “confidential” items has not gone down well.

DA councillor Vic Winterbach said it was “indeed unnecessary” to sign another declaration as councillors had signed one when they were sworn into council in 2011.

“Why councillors should now be required to sign a declaration with regard to a matter already exhaustively dealt with in the Code of Conduct for councillors doesn’t make logical sense to me,” he said.

He said that signing an additional declaration is pointless as the initial declaration was more than adequate.

IFP councillor Dolo Zondi lashed out, saying that the council’s decision seems “sinister”.

“Are they doing the wrong things and forcing us to keep quiet about it? We have already signed a confidentiality declaration during this term we are serving so why should we sign it again? My party will not sign,” said Zondi.

He added that should the council force the decision, the party will “take it up with lawyers”.

The “issue” of councillors allegedly discussing confidential council matters with the media and the public was discussed with the executive committee during a meeting at city hall recently.

City manager Nkosi said that a declaration of confidentiality needs to be signed by all councillors to regulate what they are allowed to discuss with the media and public. He said this was a new initiative by the council “to get a handle on matters”.

Opposing Winterbach’s comments, Nkosi said the previous declaration signed by councillors did not adequately cover the issue and councillors had to sign the amended document.

However, DA councillor Bill Lambert questioned what impact the new document would have on councillors’ freedom of speech.

“All councillors will still enjoy the benefits of freedom of speech, however, confidential matters discussed in chambers should be kept within the walls of these chambers,” retorted Nkosi.

A report by the strategic management committee brought to the executive committee said that the leaking of confidential information to the media and public at large was identified as a major risk the council needed to address. In the new declaration, councillors have to sign off that anything discussed in a closed session by the council or committee and anything that would violate a person’s right to privacy will be deemed confidential.

Minority Front councillor Radhia Singh said most confidential items should not be confidential in the first place, and in future she would excuse herself from all meetings discussing such matters.

“I received instruction from my party’s leader [Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi] to not sign off on any confidential matters and rather excuse myself from meetings when confidential matters arise,” said Singh.

NFP councillor Ntokozo Bhengu could not be reached for comment

Read more on:    msunduzi municipality  |  pietermaritzburg

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