Getting hold of local ward councillors can often not be as easy as one might expect. This leaves residents with the big question: What does a ward councillor actually do?
Ward 99’s councillor, Nicole van Dyk, gave the Northcliff Melville Times a peek into her daily doings to help answer this question.
“As public as many of us are, there is still so much about our jobs that people don’t know. A lot of people seem to think this job is part-time; however, most ward councillors will say they work harder than most politicians at upper levels,” she said.
Van Dyk explained that ward councillors will normally attend Community Policing Forum (CPF) and sector policing meetings to keep up to date with service delivery issues that affect security, like street lights that don’t work.
“I generally meet with a station commander once a month to find out how things are going. I have ratepayers’ association meetings to attend.”
These standard responsibility meetings happen during the day or in the evenings and are mostly not optional if you want to keep up to speed with what’s going on. But being part of a political party, councillors often have to attend meetings with the party, including branch and constituency meetings once a month.
“Here we discuss what is going on at ground level so that politicians at higher levels know what we are dealing with and what they need to address at a higher level.”
Then, ward committee meetings and the long monthly council meetings roll around. At this level, Van Dyk would need to attend Section 79 meetings, which often include oversight visits to places like clinics or construction sites.
“These meetings are all vital to creating relations and knowing what is going on because we cannot have eyes everywhere. We get information that will help decide on the appropriate projects to roll out.”
Councillors are also in constant communication with residents, but some feel the communication can be one-sided. Van Dyk said she tries to respond to emails within three working days. She gets about 100 a day, along with around 1 000 WhatsApp messages from between 40 and 60 WhatsApp groups.
“If I haven’t answered you, don’t take it personally. Just let me know and I will have a look again,” she said. “I never want people to think that we are not grateful for this job. Being a ward councillor, you are actually making a difference. You decided to wake up and help people, even if you can’t get to everyone.”
Van Dyk also explained that a ward councillor should be available, but not on call.
“People must please not take us for granted; we work incredibly hard. We spend so much time on service delivery and giving time to residents.
“We are very much trying and we know there is a long way to go, but we will keep trying to get here.”