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Decision by Tshwane council speaker to host virtual public meetings ’never intended to be malicious’

Tshwane council speaker Katlego Mathebe. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Tshwane council speaker Katlego Mathebe. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 5, 2022

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Pretoria - The decision by Tshwane council speaker Katlego Mathebe to host virtual public meetings on the revised ward committee by-laws was never intended to be "malicious".

This was according to the strategic executive in the Speaker's office, Tiyiselani Babane, who reacted to accusations by the EFF that such meetings would exclude those who didn't have access to the internet.

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EFF regional chairperson, Obakeng Ramabodu, had given Mathebe a five-day ultimatum to postpone virtual meetings with immediate effect or risk facing "a guerrilla visit" by the party to her office.

Ramabodu claimed that virtual meetings would exclude the majority of its constituencies with no internet access.

Babane said: "We didn't do those things because we were malicious. We planned all these things before the relaxation of the lockdown restriction," he said.

The relaxation of lockdown restrictions was done during the festive season while people were not working, he said.

"There was no malicious intent to do that. It would have been irresponsible for us to say we are going to host meetings in community halls," Babane said.

He, however, said the Speaker's office was exploring possibilities of hosting physical meetings soon after the virtual ones scheduled for next week on January 12 and 15.

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Babane said the objective was to have a report on the by-laws tabled in council this month end and in anticipation of ward committee elections before the end of March.

"Because most of the venues in the regions are used for vaccination we are looking at having a central venue (for a physical meeting) and then we will organise buses and other transport modes to assist us with transporting people from different locations," he said.

He rejected the claim that people in the townships didn't have access to the internet.

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"The City has WiFi infrastructure throughout the City. This is another way in which we can reap the benefits of that investment," he said.

He emphasised that the formation of ward committees was now treated as a measure of urgency.

"We have had five years plus another five years of the term that ended in 2016 without ward committees. The issue of ward committees is actually mandatory in terms of the Structures Act. We want to rectify that as soon as possible. We don't want to waste more time,"he said.

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