MLABA 'no RACIST'

THE eThekwini municipality has denied claims that mayor Obed Mlaba or senior council officials made racist remarks at a meeting to discuss the closure of the Early Morning Market.

THE eThekwini municipality has denied claims that mayor Obed Mlaba or senior council officials made racist remarks at a meeting to discuss the closure of the Early Morning Market.

Mlaba allegedly made the remarks at a meeting at the International Convention Centre in Durban on July 10.

"Our assessment is that this is the work of peddlers who are desperately trying to politicise the Early Morning Market issue to accomplish their own agendas," said business support unit head Philip Sithole.

But, several representatives at the meeting, including one from the World Class Cities for All (WCCA), which represents 11 organisations, said the city officials "clearly came to the meeting with an agenda to divide".

WCCA spokesperson Gaby Bikombo yesterday said it was obvious that most traders at the market were Indian because of the city's administrative bungling in handing out permits.

"Anti-Indian sentiments were expressed at the meeting," he said.

"When the mayor addressed the gathering he said the market benefited only Indians and that black people earned peanuts."

Bikombo said it was clear that Mlaba preferred to speak in isiZulu but with no interpreter.

But when city manager Mike Sutcliffe spoke in English his speech was interpreted.

"The message sent out was to convince the gathering that the new initiative would benefit only black people."

The mayor and city management had called the meeting at the ICC to update all stakeholders on its new market mall initiative amid an outcry over the new R400million development.

Sithole also rejected statements that Mlaba deliberately chose to address the meeting in isiZulu while being aware that there were many people at the gathering who did not understand the language.

"We find this strange, as isiZulu is one of the official languages in South Africa and is widely spoken in the city.

"The use of the language was not meant to exclude any race group at the meeting," Sithole said.

He said they viewed the allegations as "misleading in the extreme and were aimed at sowing divisions among the city's residents".

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