Council meetings are few and far between, even more so during the past 18 months of various states of lockdown.
And being able to report on them is more difficult, because they have all been virtual, which comes with technical glitches, confusion over who is speaking –especially in a virtual meeting with about 20 people all having a turn to talk – and some of the dialogue being inaudible.
The single meeting that councillors attended in person over the past 18 months was the last full council meeting of 2020, held in the Port Alfred Civic Centre, where councillors exchanged gifts – except the DA – and enjoyed a hearty meal of chops, wors and chicken.
Bear that in mind. The only meeting the Ndlambe council has been willing to hold in person – despite being allowed an indoor meeting of up to 50 people under current restrictions – was when they held a party.
The democratic process has been subverted by these lockdowns and our council’s further unwillingness to meet in person. Though few, members of the public used to attend council meetings and although not allowed to take part, were there to listen and take note of items of interest.
That too has been lacking. It all contributes to a lack of transparency and public participation.
The virtual council meeting that took place on Wednesday was an example of the farce. First, it took nearly an hour for an official to take a register of the attending councillors and there were arguments over who had called “present” or not.
One of the actual decent things the DA did was raise a motion, already submitted in June, that the monthly water availability charge – a separate charge from actual water use – be scrapped until sufficient quality water is actually being supplied to residents. The DA reminded council that many residents had received no municipal water for more than seven months.
The most outspoken opponent of this motion was EFF councillor Xolisa Runeli, who bizarrely called the motion “illegal” and “unconstitutional”. Worse than that, he said “white people can afford to pay it”, implying that black residents of Ndlambe do not have to pay this municipal charge. This is utterly absurd and racist.
The motion went to a vote and the ANC voted it down. Some ANC councillors echoed what Runeli had said about the motion being “illegal”. Runeli did not even want to vote because it entertained something illegal, he said.
Residents who have been without water, take note of how your constituency representatives are looking out for your interests.
– Jon Houzet