‘Witness’ reports strike city’s nerve

2016-04-18 11:02
The red-brick road around the City Hall.

The red-brick road around the City Hall. (Jonathan Burton)

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1. Mr Mahlaba

The council has difficulty understanding why a leading commercial newspaper is running stories, almost on a daily basis, about what is essentially an employee-employer matter.

Mr Mahlaba is fully aware of the legal avenues available to him and the council, as an employer, will respond accordingly in an appropriate forum. Indeed, the municipality intends opposing Mr Mahlaba’s Labour Court application as his application is both legally and factually incorrect. Mr Mahlaba is not the first employee to challenge decisions by his employer and proceed to the Labour Court. Nor will he be the last. It is thus extremely unfortunate that Mr Mahlaba’s personal, untested, views are being represented by your newspaper as being factually correct. Be that as it may, it is hoped, in the interests of fairness and responsible journalism, that The Witness will give equal prominence to the municipality’s legal response to Mr Mahlaba’s application.

2. Mr Nkosi

Council notes with concern Mr Nkosi’s personal comments on the suspension of Mr Mahlaba and, as he rightfully says, it is his personal comments. Mr Nkosi, as a senior representative of the municipality, ought to know better than to comment on issues that he clearly is out of touch with. His views, too, are also legally incorrect. Nonetheless, council finds it strange that Mr Nkosi’s “personal comments” have found their way into the main section of your newspaper. In the interests of balanced reporting, perhaps the municipality should have been requested to respond to Mr Nkosi’s comments.

3. Ms Zulu

The Witness continues making reference to the Acting Municipal Manager. In this regard, Mr Mahlaba’s personal, and defamatory, comments about Ms Zulu are being given prominence by your newspaper and being reported as fact rather than as Mr Mahlaba’s own personal, untested opinions. Ms Zulu is an employee, and like any other employee of the municipality, is subject to the same rules/policies and processes that guide other municipal employees.

She is not above the law. If your newspaper, reporters, or any other person for that matter, has evidence of any malfeasance, corruption or fraud on Ms Zulu’s part, they could approach SAPS, the Public Protector, and KZN: Cogta for her to be investigated. However, what is not acceptable is for Ms Zulu, the acting manager of the city, to be consistently subjected to innuendo and false reporting. Indeed, given the manner in which The Witness has reported on this matter, and the prominence given thereto, it would not be difficult to draw the conclusion that The Witness, and the reporters concerned, may be wittingly, or unwittingly, taking sides.

This would be unfortunate as The Witness has been known for its fairness and objectivity. Sadly, these values/principles have not been evident in recent reporting of municipality affairs.

4. Polo Crosse

The council has grave difficulty with the sensational reporting of the so-called Polo Crosse bid. This is an important project that will provide a much needed economic stimulus that will be for the benefit of all the inhabitants of the city. As your reporters correctly point out, this bid has not yet been adjudicated and awarded.

The report is based on information provided by unknown sources and your reporters appear to have been fed information by individual/entities who clearly have an interest in this tender and are intent on derailing this important project. With respect, your newspaper should not be drawn into the awarding of bids and serve as part of the objection process for disgruntled objectors or bidders. There are clear legal processes in place to deal with any objections or bids; namely, the Municipal Bid Appeals Tribunal and/or the courts. In addition, if anyone has any information relating to alleged corruption or fraud, they should be encouraged to approach the relevant authorities.

However, what cannot be countenanced is that the municipality must now put the bidding process on hold simply because of the uninformed and unsubstantiated comments of some disgruntled objectors. Rest assured that the municipality’s security chain management processes will be fully complied with and any award that will be made will be legally defensible.

The municipality is committed to fighting corruption wherever it may occur. It is also all in favour of a free and open press, and supports the freedom of expression.

What the municipality finds hard to accept is the prominence given to reporting on the personal comments and opinions of disgruntled employees who appear to be intent on deflecting attention away from the serious allegations of corruption currently being investigated by both the Honourable MEC for Co-operative Development and Traditional Affairs as well as the Municipality itself. Whilst sensational reporting may help to sell newspapers, it does not do the city any good.

It is sincerely hoped that The Witness will remind its reporters of the need to report in a responsible, fair, and balanced manner. One does not expect anything less from a newspaper such as yours.



Manager: Marketing and Communications (Acting)

Read more on:    msunduzi municipality

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