The threat by eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda to have councillors charged for giving “misleading” information to the public has drawn the ire of the Democratic Alliance (DA).
The opposition party has since roped in its legal team to tell Kaunda that his threat is unconstitutional, adding that all its rights are reserved.
The letter came after Kaunda from the governing African National Congress (ANC) told an executive committee meeting that opposition councillors would be “charged” for any “misleading” comments about the municipality made in public.
At the same meeting, he further directed the City Manager, Musa Mbhele, to give notice to security companies and officials to refuse entry to DA councillors who wished to visit municipal infrastructure to conduct oversights.
The mayor made this statement in response to DA councillors criticising the municipality’s service delivery, including sewage spillage.
The DA councillors interpreted that as an attempt to gag them from conducting oversight as the city of eThekwini continues to battle sewerage infrastructure challenges and service delivery backlogs.
Through Mindo, Schapiro and Smith law firm, Kaunda has been warned that his conduct was unconstitutional.
“Our instructions with respect to the Executive Mayor’s conduct and allegations are threefold.
“First, the Mayor is not empowered to order security companies to bar opposition councillors from conducting oversight visits at municipal infrastructure sites.
“To the extent that the Executive Mayor directed the City Manager to cause security companies to prevent oversight visits, his conduct is patently inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996,” reads part of the letter.
The law firm copied the letter to Mbhele, the Speaker of the council, Thabani Nyawose, and the legal department of the struggling municipality.
Kaunda was also warned that he cannot gag the opposition councillor’s freedom of expression and their site visits.
“Second, the Executive Mayor cannot stifle councillors’ freedom of expression, and duty to speak out against maladministration, by threatening to “charge” councillors for “misleading statements”.
“Again, to the extent that the Executive Mayor has done so, his conduct is inconsistent with the Constitution,” the law firm added.
Furthermore, the law firm denies that DA Councillor, Yogis Govender, who spoke out during the meeting, was misleading the public about comments she made which were flagged by Kaunda and the municipality as such.
“Third, Cllr (Councillor) Govender’s comments were not “misleading” — whatever that may mean. Cllr Govender was at the Executive Committee meeting of September 19, 2023.
“Cllr Govender accurately communicated the events of that meeting to the media. We deny, on behalf of Cllr Govender, that the allegations reported in the media were misleading.
“Our clients’ rights remain reserved.”
Kaunda’s spokesperson, Mluleki Mtungwa, did not comment when asked whether the mayoral office has received the letter or not.
His comment will be added once received.