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AfriForum vs. ELM in Machado public meeting


Despite a number of “false starts” the much-publicised public debate between civil rights group AfriForum and Emakhazeni Local Municipality (ELM) finally took place at the Machadodorp municipal offices on 10 April.


AfriForum, after having attempted to engage with ELM in a public forum for some time concerning a number of service delivery issues within the ELM municipal area obviously arrived at the venue with a very clear agenda in mind. His honour the Mayor, Cllr. X.S. Ngwenya, was happy to oblige as both sides clashed on a number of points - right from the outset. Whereas the meeting was extremely poorly attended by residents of Machadodorp – and indeed the rest of the towns within the ELM area – with very few members of the public, both sides were well represented by various ward members and ELM officials as well as AfriForum members and supporters.


As the Mayor opened the proceedings and welcomed all present, Mr. Ruan Lottering, organiser for AfriForum, Mpumalanga, immediately interjected and took exception to a number of aspects of the Mayor’s impromptu politically motivated speech. Lottering stressed that AfriForum was a civil rights group, not a political organisation, and, as such, said that “AfriForum does not want politics in this meeting” and asked the Mayor if he would agree to refrain from “politicising the debate”. Stung and visibly annoyed, the Mayor retorted: “AfriForum is undermining ELM and not respecting us!” He went on to say that ELM knew “exactly what AfriForum was” and admonish Lottering in saying that “We know more about you than you know about yourself!” With this mutually antagonistic tone having been set between the opposing sides, the meeting became increasingly hostile as representatives from AfriForum repeatedly grilled the Mayor for “direct answers to direct questions” - whilst the Mayor continued to deflect and accuse AfriForum of “not being in possession of all the correct facts and figures” on which to base their “allegations”.


As the issues continued to revolve around ELM’s controversial and hotly contested 237-page Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for ELM, the Mayor initially defended the document as having been “ratified” by the “correct authorities” in provincial government and, a few minutes later, contradicted himself by describing the IDP as a “wish list” rather than a “total solution” owing to a lack of available funds to realise the IDP’s stated goals. This statement drew howls of derision from the angry AfriForum representatives. Mr. Ruan Lottering succinctly summed up Afriforum’s opinion of the IDP by directly asking the Mayor’s opinion and comments on the numerous “lies” contained within the document.


Needless to say, the debate was quickly brought to an end in light of the open hostility shown by both sides – with precious little resolution achieved in addressing the numerous and serious issues facing the residents of ELM. In this “opening round” of what is likely to prove an on-going and long-running, acrimonious feud between the two diametrically opposed sides, it is hoped that, at some stage, resolution may be reached which will prove of some benefit to all concerned.  

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