Irate political parties gathered outside Newcastle Municipality on Thursday, 19 January 2022, demanding the Newcastle Municipality take steps against the Democratic Alliance (DA) Ward Councillor Connie Hariram.
The saga involving Cllr Hariram began after she made racial comments via a voice note on a WhatsApp Group, regarding a resident elected as a Ward Committee member, in February 2022.
In the voice note, Cllr Hariram can be heard questioning why (in a meeting where there were predominantly individuals of Indian origin) was a Black South African voted for to form part of the Ward Committee.
With the voice note going viral, Newcastillian News reported on the matter, questioning the Newcastle Municipal Speaker, Cllr Thengi Zulu, on what steps were being taken.
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While Cllr Zulu assured the matter was being investigated, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and ActionSA voiced their disdain seeing the two political parties picketing outside the Newcastle Municipality.
EFF’s Sibusiso Sizani, who is also the Amajuba District’s Deputy Mayor, explained that the EFF felt it was imperative that steps be taken against Cllr Hariram. “Her act was not just undermining black people, but was undermining the democracy of South Africa as well.”
With numerous EFF supporters in attendance, he further emphasised that it was important to note, the EFF picket was not an attack on her as an individual, but rather the racism that she shared.
“Cllr Hariram should be removed as a Ward Councillor and Ward 3 should be allowed to vote for someone who is not a racist,” said Cllr Sizani.
ActionSA’s Provincial Chairperson, Zwakele Mncwango, together with the political party’s Newcastle Leader, Faizel Cassim and ActionSA supporters formed part of the protest.
Mncwango said ActionSA believed Hariram should be removed as the Ward 3 Councillor, following her racially-charged comments against an African woman elected as a Ward committee member.
Describing Hariram’s remarks as an insult, Mncwango further said, “The Newcastle Municipality’s Speaker must remove her as a councillor, as must the DA. We cannot have racist leaders in our society.”
Furthermore, a memorandum was handed to Newcastle Municipality’s Speaker, Cllr Thengi Zulu.
MEC for the KZN Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Sihle Zikalala stated that CoGTA is now calling upon the Speaker to investigate these distressing allegations against Hariram.
“Councillors are public representatives and should work towards creating social cohesion within their communities. Saying someone should not have been elected to a ward committee because of their skin colour is distasteful and unfitting for a public representative,” Zikalala said.
He added that the sphere of local government is at the coal face of service delivery and therefore needed leaders who had empathy and a willingness to work with all people irrespective of race, culture, and creed.
“The Speaker of the municipality is duty-bound to investigate these alleged utterances by the councillor to see if they are in breach of the council’s code of conduct. The department also wishes to warn councillors about the seriousness of the oath they took when they were sworn in. As a department we will continue to hold councillors to the highest standards,” concluded MEC Zikalala.
Reflecting on the matter, Cllr Zulu explained that the Newcastle Municipality was taking the matter seriously and had undertaken a thorough approach to the situation. He said this includes a committee dealing with the matter.
Additionally, Cllr Zulu is tasked with the duty of obtaining legal advice on the situation.
He will also be undertaking further discussions with the ward committee member that Cllr Hariram focused on.
Assuring the community that the Municipality was dealing with the saga, Cllr Zulu said, “We care deeply about our residents, but we cannot rush the matter.”
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