What is the role of parliamentarians and ward councillors in Covid-19 interventions?
By ESTERI MSINDO and SIYABULELA FOBOSI
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about multifaceted socio-economic challenges including job losses, loss of income and rising health costs.
The pandemic which started in Wuhan, China has spread across the globe, killing over 260 000 people globally and over 2000 in Africa by early May 2020. In South Africa since the first infection was confirmed on 4 March 2020, confirmed cases had risen to 18 003 with 339 confirmed deaths as at 20 May. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown on midnight of 26 March 2020, and related regulations issued in terms of Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002.
A large-scale health crisis of this magnitude demands intervention from a range of role-players within the state. The President and National Treasury respectively announced a risk-adjusted strategy and a R 500 billion economic response to the pandemic. This includes allocations of R20 billion for health and frontline services and R20 billion to municipalities – resources that will require close oversight.
Members of the executive such as provincial premiers, cabinet ministers and mayors are responsible for ensuring that people’s rights of access to healthcare services, to adequate food, shelter, water and sanitation are protected. The provision of these services is of primary importance in order to minimise the effects of Covid-19 on citizens. Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 provides guidance to the national executive response to a national disaster.
The South African Parliament continues to grapple with the effect of Covid-19 pandemic in relation to its Constitutional obligations which includes oversight, law-making and public participation. In terms of the lockdown, Members of Parliament (MPs) fall within the category of essential workers. Individual MPs have a role of “carrying out constituency work within various communities and holding the Executive accountable for implementing measures designed to overcome the state of disaster”. The Offices play a very important role in enabling the public to become active citizens and take part in the parliamentary activities. The services available in these offices are required to be available equally to the members of the public..
Like the Parliament, Provincial Legislatures are constitutionally bound to continue their oversight role in order to ensure effective delivery of essential services that reduce the impact of Covid-19. This role is especially important when one considers the most recent Auditor General findings: only 8% out of a total of 257 municipalities were found with a clean audit outcome in their financial management and a total of R21.243 billion in irregular expenditure by those municipalities that were found wanting. Audit outcomes on government departments revealed fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R4.16 billion.
Given that 43% of people do not have access to piped water in their homes – the delivery of water as per Disaster Management Act (DMA) regulations is an important step. The importance of the Legislature’s ability to track the delivery of these resources by the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation is elevated in light of reports of R 16.5 billion in irregular expenditure.
Public access to reliable and correct information is central in mitigating and preventing the effects of the virus in communities. Information is crucial to mitigate the effects on the lives of the most vulnerable. Public representatives must be proactively and regularly in contact with their communities to obtain accurate information on their needs and share important information to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) requires ward councillors to create awareness of the virus within communities. Councillors are expected to be in close contact with their constituencies on the ground. They have to keep their municipal council informed of the residents’ real experiences and views of the municipality.
Councillors also serve as a communication link between the municipal council and the community. Unlike members of Parliament, councillors are elected by the areas that they represent.
In addition, councillors are considered important in promoting the involvement of citizens and community groups in the design and delivery of municipal services.
A ward councillor is considered as a bridge the municipal council and the residents of the ward that they have been elected to serve. Therefore, the councillor has a legislated duty to represent the community’s interest (even under Covid-19 and the national lockdown).
The Municipal Structures Act of 1998 makes a requirement for the establishment of ward committees to assist ward councillors in understanding the needs and the views of the community. Therefore, ward councillors are responsible to their electorate and to the municipal council. They represent the interests of their constituency and use their authority to the benefit of the community.
Councillors engage with their community in the following ways: ward committees, networking and consultation, regular meetings, information sheets, community radio stations and media, and petitions.
Ward committees get elected by their ward to represent the views of the people within their respective communities.
Councillors sit in the council on behalf of their constituents. The Municipal Structures Act stipulates that a municipal council consists of a number of councillors determined by the Member of Executive Committee (MEC) for local government. The Act also requires the municipal council to annually review the needs of the community and prioritise to meet those needs. A municipal council is tasked with developing consultation mechanisms to engage their communities and community organisations.
Municipalities and municipal entities are required to perform various legislated functions, including the adoption of Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) and operations relating to municipal services and revenue collection.
In performing essential services under the Regulations gazetted on 29 April 2020, municipalities are to ensure that there is strict adherence to all Covid-19 public health and containment regulations. Of particular relevance are those relating to gatherings, physical distancing, health and safety.
In addition, municipal entities are required to ensure that communities are consulted using media platforms and alternative methods consultation, instead of contact meetings, to provide comments on the draft IDP and budget.
The restrictions imposed by the national lockdown mean that councils and councillors cannot hold public hearings nor undertake constituency work as they ordinarily would. This calls for innovation such as setting up Whatsapp communication platforms and working with civic formations such as the Makhanda Circle of Unity to engage with residents. The work of groups such as ‘Putting People in the People’s Parliament’ have advocated for MPLs to foster public participation during this period by using virtual platforms and communication. Municipal Councils too are obliged to deepen their oversight and engagement. Ward councillors are individuals elected to oversee specific wards within a municipality. Their work is governed by the Municipal Structures Act of 1998.
People’s needs are best served when they have clear information, accurate knowledge of governance and service delivery processes in addition to avenues to contact their representatives. The Constituency Office in Makhanda is located at 35B Beaufort Street Below is a list of the Makana Municipal Council contact details.
|Executive Mayor||Speaker of the Council||Chairperson: Local Economic Development and Planning|
|Mzukisi Mphahlwa||Yandiswa Vara||Mthuthuzeli Matyumza|
|Ward Councillors||Ward Number (Area)||Political Party Affiliation||Contact details|
|Ntombekhaya Mavis Pieters||1 (Riebeeck East and all the surrounding farms, Fort Brown and Hooggenoeg)||ANC||083 218 4090|
|Mphumzi Rumsell ‘Rami’ Xonxa||2 (KwaThatha, Joza from A to C sections)||ANC||082 932 1304|
|Mthunzi Fatyi||3 (Extension 2 – Phumlani, & 10, Mndandi, Phaphamani, Zolani and Vergenoeg)||ANC||078 567 3677|
|Brian Fargher||4 (Scott’s Farm, Ghost Town), Oatlands North, St Aidan’s, Public Administration (current public works staff residential), Queen Street Taxi Rank area, and Kingswood)||DA||082 657 4447|
|Luyanda Nase||5 (Extensions 3, 8 and 9 and Transit Camp)||ANC||078 791 0210|
|Thembisa Gaushe||6 (Extension 4, 6, Lingelihle and all the infill areas)||ANC||078 472 5411|
|Malibongwe Khubalo||7 (Hlalani, Xolani, Newtown and Zwelitsha)||ANC||073 300 0497|
|Brian Jackson||8 (Fort England, Market and Hill Street areas including the Central Business District)||DA||083 768 0193|
|Mfundo Moya||9 (Extension 5, Joza D area, Eluxolweni, some sections of Vukani and Hlalani)||ANC||083 329 2989|
|Luyanda Sakata||10 (Fingo Village: from A to T street, Xolani, Mission)||ANC||063 187 0666|
|Mncedisi Gojela||11 (Some sections of Extension 6, whole Extension 7, and Ethembeni Informal Settlement)||ANC||073 196 7661|
|Mzobanzi Nkwentsha||12 (Rhodes University)||ANC||078 143 7349|
|Thembakazi Seyisi||13 (Some sections of Vukani, Manley Flats and surrounding areas, Salem area, Committees Drift, and Collingham)||ANC||072 893 2396|
|Position Vacant||14 Alicedale, Seven Fountains and surrounding areas)|
|Proportional Councillors||Political Party Affiliation||Contact details|
|Aldworth John Meyer||DA||082 842 7851|
|Carolynn Clark||DA||074 618 8747|
|Siyabulela Sodladla||ANC||073 029 5670|
|Xolani Madyo||DA||072 261 0237|
|Nombulelo Masoma||ANC||079 023 2143|
|Phumla Matyumza||ANC||073 378 2416|
|Theo Fredlin Bruintjies||DA||062 042 2128|
|Siyamthanda Dyantyi||EFF||074 222 5882|
|Siyabonga Bashe||EFF||078 984 0391|
Councillors and Members of Parliament have the job to provide critical information to communities to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and help them access medical services. The Constitution mandates them to facilitate public participation and service delivery. In line with the government’s national response to Covid-19, they should identify where there is need for water, sanitation, electricity and other essential services. They should provide information for the appropriate provision of essential infrastructure such as water tanks, and support for destitute households.
Councillors and MPs have the job of gathering information from and sharing information with communities, and ensuring two-way communication between them and the government.
Esteri Msindo: Human Settlements Researcher- firstname.lastname@example.org
Siyabulela Fobosi: Education Researcher- email@example.com
The Public Service Accountability Monitor
046 603 83585
The PSAM, PEERC, DOI, PMG are part of a project entitled ‘Putting the People in Parliament’ that is supported by the European Union (EU) and Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF).