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Understanding the role of your ward councillor

Written by: Sphelele Ngubane

On November 1, South Africans will vote for their preferred candidates for councillor positions in their respective areas.

Vuk’uzenzele consulted with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the South African Local Government Association on what a voter needs to understand about the role of a ward councillor. Below are some of the responsibilities of a ward councillor.

1. A ward councillor has to know and attend to your community’s needs

Each financial year, municipalities set aside budgets for development and services for the areas within their jurisdiction. A good councillor has to know what his/her community needs are and which ones are priorities. A councillor does not decide on their own but consults with the community and take their interests to the municipal council.

2.  Speaks on your behalf

Whenever a community has an issue with service delivery or faces development challenges, a councillor has a responsibility to speak for the community and advocate for the resolution of the issue. A councillor has to ensure a better and improved life for all the people in his/her ward.

3. Votes on your behalf

Your councillor is not only responsible for your ward, but also serves in the council of the municipality. Municipal issues affecting all wards in a municipality are discussed and voted on for resolutions at the council. Not all residents can be present in those meetings. Therefore, a councillor votes on behalf of all the people in their ward.

4. Monitors the performance of the municipality

Councillors have to ensure accountability. While they may not instruct a municipal official on how to do their job, it is their responsibility to keep track of the work that officials do and make sure it is of acceptable standards. If a municipality has planned a project, but does not deliver, a councillor has to, on behalf of the residents in the ward, question that until there is accountability. If a community wants to march to the municipality to present a complaint or a memorandum of demands, a councillor has to assist the people to draft documents as well as direct them to relevant officials who can approve the march.

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