7310 Ward Councillor John Mendelsohn from the Democratic Alliance (DA) for the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality announces that 'Johannesburg is broke' at a press conference held at the DA offices in Parktown, Johannesburg. 070409 - Picture: Jennifer Bruce

Joburg’s DA opposition councillors staged a walkout at Thursday’s council meeting after a row over the city’s spending R90 million on the 2009 Miss World contest.

The walkout was sparked after the City of Joburg resolved to put together a new policy which will govern the manner in which sensitive “documents” are released to councillors for scrutiny.

During a debate on the R90m spent on the Miss World contest the DA questioned the source of the funds and how the money was spent.

The issue has been the subject of criticism for the past two years with residents and opposition parties questioning why so much money was spent on the contest when there were more pressing needs around the city.

The city has always defended itself saying that the hosting of the pageant was staged to promote tourism in the city.

At Friday’s meeting the DA called for a division, meaning that councillors had to cast individual votes that had to be counted by a show of hands.

All opposition parties voted against it, but because the ANC is in the majority, the item was approved.

DA councillor Cameron Mackenzie stood up and said this was tantamount to the

Protection of State Information Bill in the council. He said he was ashamed to be a member of such a council.

ANC chief whip Prema Naidoo stood up and said he was “ashamed of sitting in a chamber full of racists”, pointing to the DA.

This prompted DA councillors to walk out.

The ANC resolved to get its legal advisers to put together a new policy on the manner in which councillors would obtain access to sensitive documents. The council found there were no irregularities in the expenditure for the beauty contest.

However, DA councillor John Mendelsohn said there had been a call for investigation of this matter for over two years because of unanswered questions.

Currently, said Mendelsohn, any document the ANC deems to be sensitive is withheld anyway, but this would formalise the process.

“It is outrageous because nowhere in any of the municipal system’s financial and management acts is there provision for confidentiality clauses and contracts. There can be nothing hidden in anything to do with municipal finances. But technically, they have been doing this for years,” he said.

The DA only wanted access to the documents regarding the funding, not the Miss World business plan which the ANC claims was subject to confidentiality clauses.

“These documents require close scrutiny and explanations from officials in the employ of Johannesburg Tourism Company and senior politicians who were closely involved in the matter,” he said. “I believe there is much more to this than meets the eye.”

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The Star