The duties of ward councillors often come into question by both frustrated and curious residents and their role in the community is often scrutinised.
City of Johannesburg councillor Graham de Kock, who has been a councillor since 2011, is the deputy chief whip of Joburg’s Democratic Alliance and who previously served as a city official in EThekwini Municipality for 20 years, offers some clarification.
“The City employs 135 ward councillors. This effectively means that for each ward in the City, a representative is elected to Council by the residents of that specific area. Keeping in mind that South Africa is still a young democracy, the actual role and responsibilities of councillors are relatively unknown to the public.
“Whilst residents do not vote directly on Council decisions, the councillor is mandated to take upon themselves the views of the residents and amplify the community’s voice in Council. As a result of this, councillors are certainly expected to be accessible to residents, allowing them the opportunity to be part of public involvement and increase participation.
“Councillors need to report back to their communities at least once a quarter. They should use available communication channels to engage with their communities. This could include, for example, email newsletters, social media pages, and a WhatsApp group dedicated to residents of the ward.
“Your ward councillor should be reasonably available, but not necessarily always on call. Many councillors do have, and are permitted by legislation to hold, alternative employment.”
He said a ward councillor is also not required to be a resident of the ward they represent. And finally, that a councillor may not give any instruction to City officials, as theirs is an oversight role.
“It may come as a surprise, but residents should know that their councillor may not, by law, instruct an official to take any particular action.
“Nevertheless, councillors are encouraged to build good relationships with officials of the City in their ward and region.”
If a resident does not know who their ward councillor is, they can visit the Independent Electoral Commission’s website at www.elections.org.za
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