GEORGE NEWS - All George municipal meetings, including Council and committees of Council, will for the foreseeable future be held using electronic platforms. This was confirmed by Trevor Botha, the municipal manager.
The new budget and an adjustment budget were passed last week during a virtual meeting involving councillors and officials.
Botha said the decision is based on the World Health Organisation's warnings that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over and that face-to-face contact should be minimised.
It is a precautionary and preventative measure in line with the current rapid escalation of infections reported locally and worldwide.
"In an ongoing commitment to safeguard municipal staff and the public, the municipality calls on staff, councillors and stakeholders to use electronic means to communicate, consult and conduct meetings," Botha said. "We reiterate our urgent appeal to all people to take all the necessary precautions to stop the spread of the virus – at work, at home and everywhere else. Please be consciously aware of the impact your actions may have on the people around you, and act responsibly at all times. Always wear a mask when you go out, practise social distancing, wash your hands regularly with soap for at least 20 seconds at a time and stay at home if you feel sick."
According to Botha, Council is currently amending its programme and the way it conducts meetings. The municipality will regularly consider the Covid-19 status and review this decision. Rules of Order for online council meetings have already been approved and the necessary electronic means has been made available. The municipality intends to reinstate Section 80 committee meetings as well as other committees of Council, all via electronic means, as soon as all logistical matters in this regard have been sufficiently addressed.
"As you may be aware, there had been internet connectivity issues in some areas, that had at times affected the quality of communication. The municipality is currently engaging with private service providers to address this issue and will escalate the matter to provincial and national level if necessary."
He stressed that the George Municipality remains committed to service delivery in face of the ever-increasing challenges of Covid-19 and thanked all stakeholders for their ongoing support.
Speaker Gerrit Pretorius said they plan to have monthly meetings again as soon as possible, but does not foresee that it will be held in the council chambers again very soon. When a new year programme is in in place, council meetings will be held online.
Chief Whip Marlene Barnardt agreed that virtual meetings are the future for the next few months. She said some of the councillors and officials are in the high risk category and it is not worth the health risk to have face-to-face meetings.
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