Local Government Elections 2021: Fifth Time Lucky Or Not

Response From – Supporters of the Plett Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association
August 23, 2021
Governance In Bitou Is In Crisis
August 30, 2021

Local Government Elections 2021: Fifth Time Lucky Or Not

We will soon be going to the polls (or not) for the fifth time to elect councillors to do the important job of ensuring our municipalities are run in an open, responsive and accountable manner, while providing municipal services efficiently, effectively and sustainably.

As is evident from the latest government reports and statistics, and our lived experience, the quality of councillors and provision of services has fallen far short of minimum expectations and has declined during every term so far.

Intermittently, during every term when residents have become disillusioned with our councils, the desire “to recall, fire, place under administration, etc” are made.  Our system of democracy, however, does not allow for that, but what it does allow is for voters to hold their councillors to account and bring the necessary changes at election time every five years.

We now get the fifth opportunity to do so, and it is very important that this time around, voters do not vote blindly and unthinkingly for a political party or along racial lines.  As responsible voters we must carefully consider what exactly it is that we expect of councillors and what the qualities and skills are that they must possess in order to successfully do the critically important job to the required standard.

Apart from the ANC and DA, the IEC website shows that there are several other parties registered in Bitou offering candidates who they believe can do the job.    Time has proven that voting unthinkingly along party lines and trusting them to have selected suitably principled and skilled candidates has not been successful.  It is clear that voters need to carefully evaluate the individual councillors and their past voting and track records if they are standing for re-election.

Although our Constitution allows that anybody who is eligible to vote can stand for election and occupy a seat, it is irrational to think that people without the requisite skills, experience, etc. to manage budgets running into hundreds of millions of rands and hundreds of employees can actualy do so successfully just because they belong to a political party and made themselves available.

The colour of the t-shirt and colour of the skin doesn’t mean anything.  What the parties say they are going to do means even less.   What matters is the quality of the individuals you are choosing.

We therefore appeal to all political parties who intend providing the service of governing and managing the affairs of our town on behalf of the voters and residents to ensure that your candidates who will be providing that service are suitably skilled and ethically suitable; have a desire to serve the people and not themselves; and subscribe wholeheartedly to the Constitutional imperative of government that is transparent, accountable and responsive, as a bare minimum requirement.

If a political party is running a candidate in Plettenberg Bay, the following is what we will want from them, and what we expect of our councillors:

 

Job expectations of a Councillor: 

The main purpose of a municipality is to provide municipal services to its residents — effectively and efficiently.  In broad terms, that is what a councillor must ensure that the municipality provides.

A municipality, such as Plettenberg Bay, has a budget of roughly R700 million. That is an enormous amount of money and if a councillor does not have a good understanding of the municipal finance system, he or she will not be able to do one of the most important parts of their job.

The actual work of a municipality is done by the managers and officials,and it is the responsibility of the councillors, individually and as a group, to ensure that the correct people are chosen for the correct jobs, and that they comply with the relevant legislation in everything that they do. In order to do that, a councillor MUST have a very good working knowledge of the various legislations, such as the Municipal Finance Management Act, Municipal Systems Act, Municipal Structures Act, and refer to them constantly.

They need to come onto council knowing council’s Rules and Order, be able to conduct themselves in a debate, and be comfortable enough with the rules to be able to challenge any councillor who is in breach of those rules. For example, when recusal is required, and what constitutes a quorum.

The councillor needs to have high ethical and moral standards, and apply the laws and ethical standards without fear or favour. That means holding those who break the laws and act unethically, even their own colleagues, to account.

 

Required skills of a councillor: 

We understand that, as a political party, they may set higher standards for theircouncillor candidates, but the requirements listed below are what we, as ratepayers and residents, would like as a minimum to see in our councillors. If all our councillors had these attributes, we would be a well-managed municipality.

  • an understanding of financial reports;
  • an acceptance of “fiduciary duties”, which means to act honestly, in good faith, and in a manner in which they reasonably believe to be in the best interest of, and for the benefit of, their municipality;
  • an understanding of the main issues facing our municipality;
  • an understanding of council meeting procedures and rules of debate;
  • integrity and a knowledge of what is yours and not yours; remain uncompromised;
  • a good working knowledge of municipal legislation since the answer to almost every question is contained in the legislation; it is basically paint by numbers;
  • an understanding that they are there to serve the people of Bitou; not their political party, not their friends, nor themselves, and it is their job to ensure everybody stays on track as far as that is concerned;
  • good English since council meetings and the agenda are in English;
  • communication skills for reporting back to constituents on a regular basis;
  • basic computer skills

Unfortunately, on-the-job training is not an option. We need people who are more than capable to turn around the mess we currently have.

We want councillors we can be proud of and who are 100% dedicated to serving the community.

Kind regards,

Peter Gaylard

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