Exco row over media embargo

Durban - A row erupted in the eThekwini municipality’s executive committee meeting on Wednesday after deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala urged the committee to make an official ruling that all agendas be embargoed.

Her statement came after DA councillor Ronnie Veeran asked why, for the first time, agendas were being released to the media on the day of meetings rather than days before.

“When did putting an embargo on agendas start?” he asked. “I do not remember the executive committee taking a decision on this.”

ANC councillor Nigel Gumede said that the executive committee was not there to “favour” the media but to do its work. He said he had already raised the concern about the media reporting on issues before the council had discussed reports. This was after an issue involving businesswoman Shauwn Mpisane was published before being debated by the council.

“I said [at the time] it would be better if such issues are embargoed,” he said.

Veeran raised a point of order to challenge Gumede’s statement, but Shabalala, who was chairing the meeting, would not let him speak.

“You have had your chance [to speak]. Can we all agree that our agendas be embargoed? I am putting that as a motion,” she said.

Veeran interjected, saying: “What threatens the ruling party so much that they want to embargo agendas?”

In response, Shabalala said the executive committee was the decision-maker. “Decisions must be taken, then the media has all the right to report. Not to pre-empt things before decisions are made. Veeran is undermining me and I will take him out,” she said.

Minority Front councillor Patrick Pillay said his party would oppose any recommendation to gag the media.

“We will take the matter further with the Human Rights Commission,” he said.

“Gumede is very misleading. He only raised a concern about why the Mpisane issue was published before it came to exco. No recommendation was made to embargo agendas.” - The Mercury