Put services before spin, opposition and Cosatu urge council

2011-10-31 00:00

COSATU in KwaZulu-Natal and opposition parties in the Msunduzi Municipality have called on the council to prioritise its finances rather than using them to fund a newspaper.

ANC Exco members recently overrode objections by opposition parties to launch a council newspaper at a cost of R1,2 million this financial year in order to counter “negative” reports in the press.

The issue became a bone of contention during a meeting of the full council on Wednesday. Democratic Alliance caucus leader Bill Lambert called for a division, which sees votes for and against recorded by name.

DA councillor Mergan Chetty said, “The move by the ANC councillors to vote in favour of this newspaper is evidence that service delivery is not their priority, because R1,2 million can be used where it is desperately needed to improve services.”

Cosatu provincial secretary Zet Luzipo said in a statement, “We are concerned by reports that say the municipality is unable to service street lights and cut overgrown roadside trees that are endangering the lives of the public, due to the unavailability of equipment to render such services.”

He said the labour federation has asked to meet Mayor Chris Ndlela, a former unionist, to discuss their concerns and seek solutions.

Chetty said he believes the move is irresponsible as the municipality is still under administration with a financial situation described as critical.

“My objection is based on the fact that, having to listen to excuses week in and week out from officials that they have failed to deliver the basic services such as refuse collection, non-opening of swimming pools, failure of a properly functioning crematorium and addressing the lack of street lighting, due to lack of funds. For us to approve an amount of R1,2 million for a newspaper … to do damage control to the city’s image that is caused by the failure to deliver basic services is ridiculous to say the least.”

Inkatha Freedom Party caucus leader Dolo Zondi said, “Umphithi (a previous council newspaper) failed to serve its purpose to begin with. What good news is this proposed newspaper going to deliver to the Pietermaritzburg community?”

He said people want decent service delivery instead. “Our infrastructure is appalling; all the community wants is working electricity, water, roads, community halls, sports fields and swimming pools to cool off during this hot weather.”

Zondi wondered at the audacity to fund such a project in the face of such challenges.

National Freedom Party caucus leader Patrick Bhengu also voted against proposal. “We have a lot of challenges and this municipality wants to waste money on a newspaper. We believe that this money should be redirected to a more useful cause …”

The chairperson of the Msunduzi Rates Forum, Babs Sithapersad, said the proposed newspaper would be a waste of public money; the city has many newspapers already and most of them are free, and the mayor can always get space to get his messages over.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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