Durban - Civil society organisations were left outraged at the passing of a city by-law amendment that would mean banning the public and media from attending some council meetings.

The controversial amendments were passed despite more than 200 protesters going to the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, where the council was holding its meeting, to express their displeasure at the law.

Ben Madokwe, chairperson of the Active Citizens Movement, said they were disappointed with the outcome of the council meeting.

“We do not accept this by-law

“This by-law is meant to protect criminal elements and not enhance the municipality,” Madokwe said.

He said they would look at their options when it came to their next steps.

He also said this had showed that the government was not listening to the people.

Desmond D’Sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance said they were regrouping to discuss the issue.

The municipality had become “bullies,” he contended.

D’Sa said the municipality would soon realise that the power lay in the hands of the people.

“People will rise up against tyranny and dictatorship,” he said.

The passing of the amendments went against former president Nelson Mandela’s vision of the country as being a transparent and open democracy, he said.

For Verushka Mendutt, it meant that civil society would have to find other ways to challenge the municipality’s decision to pass the by-law.

Mendutt, of the Market Business Committee, said: “It is very disappointing that the will of the people was not considered.”

Drama unfolded at the full council sitting, the last of the year, as the DA wanted the by-law amendment to be debated.

But the motion was shot down by council speaker William Mapena.

The ANC majority council voted for the by-law amendment.

As this was happening, the civil society groups were staging their protest outside the building, while others made it inside the convention centre and unsuccessfully made their way to the hall where the council was sitting.

Protesters

The group had started off with about 50 protesters in the morning and had swelled to more than 200 by the afternoon.

Police maintained a strong presence to ensure things did not get out of hand.

As word of the commotion outside made its way into the hall where the council was sitting, the DA tried to get the amendment issue debated.

DA councillor Heinz de Boer also raised the issue of the protest that was unfolding, but Mapena denied that people were being barred from attending the meeting.

They were allowed inside according to the number of seats available, he said.

DA councillor Nicole Graham said it was unconstitutional that people were not allowed to be part of the meeting.

Mapena, however, countered that it should be noted that there were limits to the law and that not everyone could be accommodated in the hall.

Daily News