Councillors must get risk cover against service delivery outrage

2012-12-27 00:00

COUNCILLORS must be insured for risk because service delivery protests put their lives in danger.

This was announced recently in the Government Gazette by Co-operative Governance Minister Richard Baloyi. He stated that a municipality must buy insurance cover for councillors through the SA Special Risks Insurance Association to cover them in the event that their property is damaged or destroyed due to civil unrest, strikes and other forms of public disorder.

His announcement listed the perks that form part of councillors’ salaries and compensation.

Thabo Manyoni, chair of the South African Local Government Association, said councillors had been killed or their homes set alight because their communities were unhappy that Eskom had installed pre-paid meters or because a hospital or a police station had been built in the wrong area.

He said these decisions often did not originate from the local municipality, but the councillors were the first point of contact for angry community members.

Municipal IQ, an independent online information service on local government, states that 113 service delivery protests were noted by the end of July this year — the most since 2004.

In 2010 there were 111 such protests.

An economist with Municipal IQ, Karen Heese, said the trend towards violent protest actions was worrying, and that 88% of the protests noted by July had turned violent.

Peter Smith of the Inkatha Freedom Party said he was worried about the increase in service delivery protests, and that insurance for councillors was “an unavoidable result of our political culture”.

Smith said such insurance would be a lot cheaper than the cost of bodyguards.

Democratic Alliance spokesperson Mmusi Maimane said the insurance was necessary because of violent protests. But he suggested that councillors pay half the premium.

But Lucas Opperman, an expert on municipal finances, said a large portion of municipal budgets was already spent on councillors’ salaries and councillors could afford the total cost of the premium.

“There are now many more councillors than before and if this turns out not to be a cheap premium, it would constitute an unfair burden on the taxpayer.” he said.

Advocate Werner Zybrands said the gazetted notice did not mean each councillor would automatically be covered, but each municipality first had to prove to its province that it needed insurance and could afford it.

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