A newly introduced social media policy of the eThekwini municipality has been called a censorship tactic. The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the city claims the policy is laughable and raises serious concerns over constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression.

Councillor Hlengiwe Shozi said in a statement: “While we do not reject a social media policy in principle, we believe that this policy is authoritarian and will undermine and stifle the work of councillors and especially those in opposition whose mandate it is to oversee the governing body. According to the policy, councillors are obliged to ‘defend the reputation’ of the municipality.”

However, eThekwini head of communications Tozi Mthethwa said that the social media policy is in draft form. “It is currently being discussed in various structures for consultation. It will be presented to all the relevant committees after the consultation. Finally, it will be presented to council for approval.”

She said the main aim of the policy was to provide guidelines for the use of social media in the municipality. “It ensures that the rights of the organisation, its councillors, staff and customers are protected,” she said.
Councillor Shaun Ryley of Ward 36 said that the policy was nothing more than an attempt to deliberately trying to muzzle opposition parties and their councillors as they exercise their oversight responsibility. “The ANC is trying to use this policy to hide the fact that the municipality is failing on so many levels.

He said that opposition parties have a right to do oversight and expose the failures of the municipality especially corruption and mismanagement of public funds. “The ANC simply mirroring the old nationalist government by adopting apartheid style censorship tactics to try and blindfold the public and restrict the opposition from revealing the truth,” said Ryley.

Shozi said the DA would never approve any policy that seeks to undermine the opposition. “This policy violates our constitutional rights as well as our mandate and we will not approve it under any circumstances. eThekwini, under the current ANC administration, is a free for all where ANC politicians and officials indulge on taxpayers’ money. We will never stop voicing our disapproval of this on all platforms, social media included,” she said.