Desiree van der Walt MPL
DA Limpopo Spokesperson on Local Government
The Maruleng Municipality in Hoedspruit this week sought to illegally exclude members of the public from attending its deliberations.
Crucially on the agenda of the meeting were matters of major public interest such as the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and the Municipal budget.
The doors to the council chambers and gallery where the members of the public sit were literally locked after the speaker started the meeting.
This is an established practice to have closed meetings at this Council. Doors are locked after the speaker starts each meeting.
The doors were only opened after a group people started gathering outside close to the council chambers.
There is no justification whatsoever to lock the doors, there needs to be free movement in and out of the council hall.
This attitude shows a disturbingly scant understanding of the democratic processes by senior organs of state in this municipality.
The IDP and the municipal budget are matters intrinsically of public concern; they cannot be discussed with the public excluded.
Our Constitution fosters an open democratic system in which transparency and accountability are the integral part.
This is also underscored by other various local government laws such as the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act.
Specifically section 20 (2) of this Act says “a municipal council, or a committee of the council, MAY NOT EXCLUDE THE PUBLIC, including the media, when considering or voting on any of the following matters:
(a) A draft by-law tabled in the council;
(b) a budget tabled in the council;
(c) the municipality’s draft integrated development plan, or any amendment of the plan, tabled in the council;”
Our public representatives, particularly those in charge of running local government, must be fully informed of why openness is important for our democratic order; it is one fundamental way to hold them accountable.