CITIZENS AND THEIR WARD COUNCILLORS: A TWO WAY PARTNERSHIP. WHAT TO EXPECT FROM BOTH PARTIES?
By Lungile Penxa
Ward councillors are citizens’ politically elected representatives. Councillors are the link between the public and the municipal council and owe their primary loyalty to their public. Councillors are required by law to support public participation and to represent the represents the interests of their communities. Councillors are mandated to carry out their duties in an accountable and transparent way. Citizens have a responsibility to hold councillors accountable on their duties of serving the interests of the electorates or citizens.
IN THE MUNICIPAL COUNCIL
Ward Councillors must make sure that community issues are on the municipal council agenda. Councillors are involved in ratifying decisions made by the council through voting on issues such as resolutions, policy changes, the IDP and the annual budget. To fully represent their municipality councillors should know:
– The people are in their municipality and/or ward (this would include things like gender, age, employment status, economic status).
– The key issues of these people
– Their perspectives and opinions of council plans including the municipality’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP)
– The key infrastructure features of the municipality, such as housing, health, sports and recreation facilities and access to transport, and the socio-political and economic features of the municipality (e.g. political parties, organised civil society, business organisations, investment bodies). The municipal citizens have a responsibility to attend the municipal council meetings as observers to see their councillors representing them, to see daily challenges that their councillors face, and to understand municipal work in relation to service delivery. The importance of citizens attending municipal meetings is that they will understand the daily municipal work and will be able to hold both the municipal administration accountable on service delivery and good governance, and their councillors accountable for representing the interests of the community in the municipal council.
IN THE WARD
Councillors are expected:
- to communicate constantly with their residents and ward committees to get inputs into council decisions.
- must understand and express the needs of the community
- collect information on concerns related to municipal delivery and report back to council
- provide ward residents with information on the agenda, date, time, venue of council meetings
- ensure that the concerns of the community are taken seriously
- be accessible to ensure that s/he is in a position to represent their views on issues affecting the community.
In the ward, citizens have a responsibility to attend ward meetings to get feedback from their ward councillors, to advise their councillor on how best can s/he represent their interests in the municipal council, to hold their councillor accountable (i.e. regular monitoring them).