The following statement was delivered at the Government Ward Committee Conference by Masizole Mnqasela MPP Spokesperson for Local Government:
Minister Anton Bredell,
Hon Members of the Standing Committee On Local Government
Executive Mayors, and Speakers of Municipalities
Representatives from SALGA
Government Departments, and Institutions of Higher Learning
Members of Ward Committees
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to address this important conference today. This conference comes at a time when we battle out the tensions in communities, as we seek to address issues of service delivery in Municipalities. Programme Director, the delegates to this conference are a true reflection of the Local Government community. I could not think of any better theme than the one given to this important gathering, that of Strengthening Partnerships Towards An Inclusive Local Governance.
Members of Ward Committees are individuals who must resist any temptation to be influenced by political fever and political expedience when addressing issues in their communities.
We need to ensure that the interests of all individuals, and groups are taken into account when considering ward budgets and community priorities.
My Standing Committee, plays, among others, a role of oversight over the Department of Local Government in its execution of its mandate over Municipalities. Part of our oversight is to ensure that functionality test is done on Ward Committees.
Conference Delegates, it is not enough to establish Ward Committees, without conducting functionality test, that includes capacity, budget, frequency of meetings, the quality of debates, and matters debated at meetings. It will also be a travesty of justice, if ward committees are not representative of the diverse sectors and various interest groups, including the vulnerable groups of our communities, that is women, and people with disabilities.
There are a number of areas that this conference should look at, if we are to succeed in our resolve to have the well-oiled Ward Committees that serve their communities with distinction.
Firstly, this conference must resolve whether the provisions made by Section 73, Sub-s 5 (a), of the Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998, enables members of ward committees to perform their duties meaningfully and optimally, especially in poor communities, and rural municipalities.
Secondly, Section 73, Sub-s 5 (d), of the Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998 should be encouraged in Municipalities especially on small quick-win projects, like speed humps, pedestrian crossings, cameras etcetera. And of cause this could be another way of ensuring that Municipality bring power closer to the people even much closer.
Lastly, I must pose this question to all of you. Is the current system of representation to ward committees not due for a review in order to address the incongruent and dynamic conditions and geographic make in some Municipalities ? Just a question;
Programme Director, the Western Cape has surpassed the national average when it comes to the functionality test in Ward Committees, but we must not be complacent. But much still needs to be done to ensure that Ward Committees are where we want them to be as contemplated in Section 73 of the Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998. Pursuant to the area of capacity, it must be noted that, as the Standing Committee, we have observed that many Municipalities do not exercise the provision made by Section 59 of the Municipal Systems Act of 2000, which, if applied well could give more delegated powers to the ward committees.
Functionality Test is the biggest component in the work of Ward Committees, after establishment. It is one that requires ongoing monitoring and support by all relevant stake holders. Hence my committee resolved early recently to visit ward committees unannounced in order to see for ourselves what is written on paper about them.
Let me conclude by this quote, by the one who abolished slavery in America, the man who became the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, he says, and I quote, ” No man is good enough to govern another without the other’s consent”, closed quote.
I thank you.