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INVITED OR NOT, I’M COMING – BENNETT

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MBABANE – “Invite or not, I will attend the Municipal Council of Mbabane AGM.”

The above statement was made by businessman Walter Bennett, who stated that he was aware that council did not regard him as a resident of Mbabane and that he did not have properties registered under his name. Bennett said he had the right to attend the meeting as a concerned ratepayer and member of the business community. He said since 1986, together with his employees, they voted under the council by virtue of being a business entity. Bennett stated that he spent a lot of money in rent, including rates he paid then. He said he would now engage the courts to clarify his position following that council continued to sideline him.

According to Bennett, his interest was on the financials released by council, which had very minimal information. He stated that as ratepayers, they needed to know who authorised councillors to remove critical information from the financials. “I have an interest in the meeting, which is why I am going to attend,” he said.

Clueless

Bennett said it was clear that council was clueless on who had to attend the meeting. He said persons who were open to attend the meeting included street vendors and businesspeople. “I am a member of the business community and have a right to attend the meeting,” he said. The businessman stated that he would attend the meeting armed with financials from Mbombela Municipality which he wanted to show to the council. He said the issue of council financial statements was a thorn as they did not provide proper and quality information on their financial goings. “They instead provide us with irrelevant information including how many stray dogs were shot and condoms distributed,” he noted. Furthermore, he questioned the issue of council allowance, which was paid to the CEO as his contract stated that his salary included that by virtue of his employment, he would work odd hours, hence there was no need for him to be paid the allowance. These, he said, were the issues which were to be addressed during the meeting.

Meanwhile, council’s Public Information Officer (PIO) Lucky Tsabedze said attendance to the AGM was by invitation only. Tsabedze said representatives of all stakeholders had been invited. He said due to the COVID-19 regulations, numbers for physical attendance were less, but there were virtual zoom and Facebook platforms which were open for use. “This is for the safety of everyone and for people like Bennett. Only invited people will be allowed into the venue because we will not let the meeting be a superspreader event and risk the lives of participants.” Tsabedze said it was regrettable that there were those who wanted to breach COVID-19 regulations and council would not hesitate to involve law enforcement agents to observe the COVID-19 regulations.

Challenge

On the issue of the financials, Tsabedze said the opinion of the auditors was clear and if Bennett wanted to challenge them, he was free to engage as he so wished. He added that the comparison of financial statements from Mbombela Municipality and those produced by the Municipal Council of Mbabane served no purpose because the municipalities used totally different legislation. “Local governments in Eswatini are governed by the Urban Government Act of 1969 and all we do as an organisation is informed by the Act.” Tsabedze stated that their sister city, Mbombela, was governed by a totally different legislation that was uniquely applicable to that city and others in South Africa. He stated that council did what was required by the laws of the country and not what Bennett wished for.  Tsabedze also noted that council’s financials had been available across council web platforms for the past two weeks. Meanwhile, last year’s AGM was also marred by controversy from attendees who disrupted presentations by the council’s administrators to voice their discontent. Other people were denied entry on grounds that they were not invited to the meeting.

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