About 50 people from at least 20 civil society organisations picketed in the rain outside the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban on Wednesday. They were protesting against a proposed by-law that would give officials the power to prevent the media from covering some city council meetings.
The eThekwini Municipality was holding a meeting inside the ICC. The media ban was on the agenda. The protesters wanted to enter the meeting, but were prevented by police from doing so.
The group continued to protest outside the ICC while demanding to be part of the council meeting that was in session. Negotiations between the police and leaders of the organisations resulted in about ten people being allowed to enter the meeting. The remaining protesters were told there were no more chairs inside the meeting room. They were asked to move away from the building by Metro cops and SAPS.
Sizwe Shiba, member of Mayine Azanian Movement, told the damp crowd: “There is currently a public council meeting taking place inside the building but we are not allowed to go inside. What are they saying for and about us, without us? That is why they’ll end up providing us with toilets, when instead it is a house we need.”
Member of the Green Thumb Society Crospy Luhlongwane, said that: “As a young person living in one of the many impoverished communities in Durban, I am worried about the future of my community. If we are no longer able to hear and participate in meetings, then decisions are kept secret.”
The recently proposed by-law has caused controversy and claims that it is unconstitutional.
Daya Naiker from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) said that the law would breach the Constitution’s right to freedom of speech: “We live in a country governed by a democratic constitution and we want transparency in our city. They want to pass this law because they want to continue stealing money, having closed contracts and giving tenders to their friends and the rest of the people must suffer. We are totally against the secrecy and we want a council that is completely transparent.”