The City of Cape Town Civic Centre. Picture: Marvin Charles/Cape Argus
The City of Cape Town Civic Centre. Picture: Marvin Charles/Cape Argus

City of Cape Town accused of blocking ratepayers who complain too much

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Jan 26, 2021

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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has been accused of red lining and blocking certain ratepayers, which they deem to complain too much – from logging service delivery complaints online or via email.

The STOP COCT group administrators Sandra Dickson and Mike Heyns were blocked from the City’s servers last year because the City said it had a barrage of emails which were tantamount to harassment and abuse due to their tone and content.

Resident Salima Modack said she also realised last week that her email address was blocked after she had been emailing the City over an issue that has not been resolved since March.

Heyns said there was no record of the total number of people being blocked by the City but noted that there were now more people who complained about being blocked by the City.

Dickson said Iast year when she needed to communicate with the City's traffic department regarding a fine, to her “horror” her email came back with a "Blocked Message" reply.

Ukubavimba Foundation executive director Venice Burgins who represented Dickson said it was unlawful for a public entity collecting tax from the public to block the public.

She said this was in violation to PAIA and not in line with good corporate governance and transparency. “I wrote to the City but was given a slap in the face and for this very reason we referred the matter to the SA Human Rights Commissioner, Chris Nissen. Access to information is a basic human right. It is frustrating to observe in our lifetime that municipalities act with impunity by blocking taxpayers,” she said.

The City's Ombudsman, Vusumzi Magwebu, said there were no formal complaints about blocking a resident from using a dedicated City service channel.

City spokesperson Priya Reddy said Dickson has not been blocked from contacting the City but an email address belonging to Dickson has been blocked from emailing individual email accounts of City officials due to her using profanity to address City officials.

“This blocking of reaching individual email accounts of individual officials does not preclude Ms Dickson from contacting the City via a range of other means at the disposal of any resident. All service channels therefore are available to Ms Dickson and any other resident and ratepayer,” she said.

Reddy said as it pertains to social media, as with any other organisation or account, any profanity, incitement to hatred and abuse was blocked as and when required as is reasonable to expect. She said all residents had access to all dedicated City service channels.

Cape Argus

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