In the first part of this interview published on Tuesday, Piryawaden Ranchhod answered questions about the state of the municipality's finances and the controversial tender for the Mayor's new car. In this second and final instalment, the Makana councillor tells Avuyile Mngxitama-Diko what he really thinks of the media, discusses transparency in government and reveals what would make him hand in his resignation
What is your opinion about the media's coverage of municipal affairs?
I think that is an easy one to answer.
First, I believe in transparency, I believe in the right for the public to know whatever happens in the municipality, within reason. There are certain aspects like corporate governance which remains behind close doors. I think that applies to any government department. For example, Rhodes University have their confidential items as well. At private schools, their meetings are all closed.
But they are not the government?
Yes, but there are certain issues that need to be kept confidential until such time that the process has been completed, for example disciplinary action against the CFO or [former municipal manager Ntombi Baart], because it is sub judice. Once the process is over there is normally a press release and the information is divulged.
Why discuss the issue of Councillor Booysen in a confidential meeting, while residents marched against her in full view of the public?
All councillors fall under the Speaker's office. When the public complains about an individual councillor, that becomes a disciplinary process. Like staff disciplinary procedures, it becomes confidential. Once that process is complete that information will be released to the public.
Do you still feel that the media is not doing justice in its reports on Council?
I think there is a lot of incorrect reporting. Take, for example, in the matter of disciplinary action against the municipal manager. The information you are getting is incorrect and you supply incorrect information to the public. When the Mayor gave the press release, he gave the facts as they were. This is when I object to how the media interprets processes within the administration or propagates false information.
I still feel the press thrives on sensationalism. I know you are trying to sell your paper but to a certain extent it works against this municipality and the community it serves. On the other hand, the public are very gullible.
Why don't you write a letter to the editor and share these concerns?
I am a very controversial person and I speak my heart. I have always done that, even in public meetings. By the same token I like to work with the media. I believe the public needs to know the correct information.
There have been allegations that you've been supporting the idea of buying a new mayoral car as a way of gaining favour from the Mayor. Is this true?
That is actually laughable. First, I am not in a position to seek favour with any individual – neither members of the public nor my fellow councillors. I'm appointed to do a job to the best of my ability to serve this community and I think one advantage I have is that I come from a business background: I know about rands and cents.
The current mayoral vehicle, a BMW, is coming to the end of its life. For the past two years it has cost us astronomical sums in maintenance and fuel costs. That vehicle in my view was the wrong type to purchase. It is my advice to change it. I don't take a decision individually, it is done collectively. I support the notion of buying a new mayoral vehicle, but I seek no favour from the Mayor. I don't have to descend to that level.
There have been also a lot of SMSes sent to the newspaper which claim that you use your position as a councillor to benefit your business. What is your response to that?
That is a very easy one, but before I answer that is it really directed at me? Because in some cases the SMS says not councillor but councillors. I can't speak for other councillors. I haven't created that smoke and neither is there any fire. Bring me the proof and if there is any case whatsoever where I have tried to [use my]influence as a portfolio chair of finance to further my business interests, I'll offer my resignation as portfolio chair.
* Ranchhod is a councillor and Portfolio chairperson of the Finance and Administration, Monitoring and Evaluation in Makana municipality. This is an edited version of the transcript of a video interview which can be heard and seen in full at www.grocotts.co.za.