Media barred from Exco after Witness expose

2009-11-13 00:00

YESTERDAY’s exposé about massive individual overtime claims at Msunduzi Municipality had unforseen consequences when the media was denied entry to the executive committee (Exco) meeting.

Acting Mayor Mervyn Dirks deliberately misled journalists before the sitting by telling them to wait outside as a confidential item was to be discussed before they would be called in.

However, officials walked out two hours later and proclaimed the proceedings over. When journalists asked Dirks why he had neglected to call them in after discussions on the confidential matter wrapped up, he said it was decided inside that the entire meeting would be confidential as only internal issues would be discussed.

DA councillor Bill Lambert was quick to dispute the claim.

“I asked why the press weren’t brought in. We discussed the agenda, not confidential items. It’s a clamp on the freedom of speech and I’m absolutely incensed. This is worse than the lights going off and it’s very sad for our democracy,” he said.

Dirks responded by claiming that it was an oversight on his part, but this is not the first time he has barred the media from sitting in on an Exco meeting.

Inside sources later told Witness, and he retaliated by denying the media access.

Sources also said a resolution was passed that no journalist would be allowed to sit in on any future finance committee meetings.

“It’s because they are hiding corruption and don’t want to be exposed. It’s not right,” said a source.

The DA caucus leader in the KZN Legislature, John Steenhuisen, said Dirk’s actions are illegal according to sections of the Municipal Systems Act and the Constitution.

“It is entirely inappropriate for the media to be barred from meetings unless there are exceptional circumstances; the council must explain what these circumstances are,” he said.

Steenhuisen added: “Given the recent history of the Msunduzi Municipality, it would be a disaster if they closed the meetings. They have got up to enough skullduggery in open meetings. The mind boggles as to what they will get up to if they suddenly start meeting behind closed doors!”

Inkatha Freedom Party councillor Dolo Zondi was not present during yesterday’s sitting and attempts to make reach him by phone were not successful.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Junior Chef

Century City
Pro Placements Recruitment Agency
R8 000 - R9 000 Per Month

Graphic Designer

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
Creative Sourcing
R7 000 - R9 000 Per Month

CSR Inbound

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
O'Brien Recruitment
R14 000 - R16 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.