“A central feature of our democratic system is that government representatives and officials should remain in touch with, and engage communities they serve on the ground on an ongoing basis. They should not only listen to the concerns of the people, but must ensure that they are responsive to the needs of the people”. This were the sentiments expressed by honourable Des van Rooyen, the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) during an hour long interaction with communities on the community Radio’s across the country .
Many community members across the country interacted with Minister on this platform and were happy that their questions were answered and responded to the fullest. Those who are serving as ward committee members should always be dedicated and those who are not doing what is expected from them can be reported to speaker of the municipality.
The Minister indicated that in South Africa, Section 152 of the Constitution enshrines the importance of community involvement of communities and community organisations in how they are governed. The Local Government Municipal System Act gives effect to this provision and mandates public officials to make use of various platforms in local government to be in touch with their constituencies.
To this effect, one of the important structures to assist in ensuring effective community engagements, is the ward committees. The Minister explained that after every local government elections, ward committees should be established in every ward.
The establishment of the ward committees find expression in the National Development Plan, our vision for 2030 which promotes public participation and for citizens to be active in their own development. It also forms part of the pillars of the Back to Basics approach which emphasises putting people first and promoting good governance. The Back to Basics approach is aimed at ensuring that all municipalities perform their basic functions without compromise and thus ensuring the communities are serviced effectively and efficiently.
Ward Committees, are an important form of public participation and is a vital part of our democracy, and allows for citizens to get involved in how their communities are governed. At local government level the Local Government Structures Act, 1998, requires amongst others municipalities to develop mechanisms to consult communities and community organisations in performing their functions and exercising its powers.
Ward Committees provide a vital link between Ward Councillors, the community and the municipality. They allow for members of communities to influence municipal planning in a manner which best addresses their needs. The Minister emphasised that ward committees were established to help improve communication between local municipalities and communities and as such we require committed people, nonpartisan and hard workers. They play an important role in being a link between the community’s needs and the municipal planning processes, hence Minister advised audiences that different communities, stakeholders and professionals are supposed to be part these structures.
Members who serve on these committees are thus well placed to ensure that resources are allocated to the most pressing needs with communities. These important structures participate in determining core municipal processes such as Integrated Development Planning, municipal budgeting and municipal performance management. They also assist to make sure that financial transfers from national government are used for the purposes they are intended for, such as ensuring that poor people get basic services.
Members who serve on these committees play a critical role in the development of an area or municipality. They are well placed to ensure that resources are allocated to the most pressing needs within communities. For instance, they participate in determining core municipal processes such as Integrated Development Planning, municipal budgeting and municipal performance management.
In the past months since the 03 August 2017 local government elections, various ward across the country have been seized with the task of electing ward committees to serve their communities. “We are encouraged by the response we have seen as citizens made themselves available to serve on these structures. Our democracy is made stronger when South Africans are involved and actively hold government to account”, said Minister van Rooyen.
“We should all work hard in building credible ward committees to strengthen our democracy by making use of this important platform and making sure that it works as this is one of the ways in which communities can partner with government in finding lasting solutions to challenges facing local government as we move our country forward”, concluded Minister van Rooyen.
Head of Communication (CoGTA)
Cell: 083 378 9495.