Councillors rated on their work

2016-02-11 06:00
 Patrick Mngxunyeni

Patrick Mngxunyeni

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s part of an ongoing project to strengthen accountability at local government level MELIKHAYA YALWA, has produced an overall performance rate card for Khayelitsha councillors who have been serving in the last five years.

This project is a research program that promotes transparency and accountability in government, especially in local government.

It leverages citizens’ Right to Information (RTI) to fight corruption and advocate for proper use of public funds and effective policy development in order to inform voters and ensure the accountability of elected representatives.

This program derives from Section 32 of our constitution: the right of access to information, including all information held by the government.

The Act was passed in parliament and guarantees citizens the right to access information from the executive, legislature and the judiciary.

A major challenge for Khayelitsha and other areas is holding their representatives accountable for promises given during election campaigns.

People realize that a key to making democracy work in Khayelitsha is to make politicians perform their duties between elections, however, the specific nature of these duties is not readily known.

To address this information gap, the Constitution came into sharp focus, including the attendance of council meetings or portfolio committees where a lot of decisions were taken and made.

After this research, pamphlets were developed on the responsibilities of elected representatives in local languages and distributed widely.

In the process, people were surprised to learn that not only did their representatives serve on committees tasked with addressing local concerns, but they also possessed development funds to spend at their discretion.

Interest in assessing information on the performance of elected representatives grew rapidly and the initiative to develop and disseminate report cards resulted from this demand.

Distribution of pamphlets on the responsibilities of councillors resulted in increased interest in the work of those elected.

While information regarding councillor’s work was supposed to be provided within seven days of request, it took over a month and several appeals to access it.

The information eventually obtained was voluminous and almost unintelligible – masses of acronyms that no one without bureaucratic experience could hope to unravel.

I worked with retired government officials, government officials, academics, activists and other sources who have expertise in this regard.

I was guided by the City of Cape Town’s complaints, feedback and media queries desk.

Through public consultation the report card was chosen as the best method to provide a snapshot of the data while also being easily published in the media prior to elections.

I began developing the report cards analysing the performance of councillors from Khayelitsha and partnered with activists to disseminate them.

Each ward councillor is elected by a specific geographically-defined ward within the municipality.

The Municipal Structures Act, 1998 provides for the establishment of ward committees to assist the ward councillor in understanding the needs and the views of the community.

A ward committee should consist of up to ten members who serve as volunteers to advise the councillor, and may represent a certain sector, like women interest groups or ratepayers associations or a geographic area or community within the ward.

The ward councillor serves as chair of the ward committee and must hold regular meetings. A council may have a detailed policy on a ward councillor’s responsibilities as ward committee chair, specifying the number of meetings and the type of reports to be made to the ward committee.

Ward councillors are also expected to hold regular public meetings within the ward, and can interact directly with any interest group even if that group is not represented on the ward committee.

With this information we decided to contrast Khayelitsha councillors’ performance and rate them individually, to give information about Khayelitsha.

It is reputed to be the largest and fastest growing township in South Africa. Khayelitsha has been split into sub-sections or areas, depending on how one divides them.

Khayelitsha is made up of old and new informal/formal areas. The old formal areas were built originally by the apartheid government and are known as A-J sections(each section with more or less than 500 formal two roomed brick houses) Bongweni, Ikwezi Park, Khulani Park, Khanya Park, Tembani, Washington Square, Graceland, Ekuphumleni and Zolani Park.

These areas are mostly made up of bank bond housing and are home to middle-class or upper working class populations

The newer areas have been built up around the older areas. They include Site B, Site C, Green Point, Litha Park, Mandela Park, Makaza and Harare.

With the exception of Litha Park, these areas contain a high number of informal settlements, RDP houses, and informal backyard dwellers. Notable informal settlements in Khayelitsha include QQ Section, TR Section, RR Section and Enkanini which have gained prominence due to their high-profile conflicts with government, including protest actions such as road blockades.

Khayelitsha ward councillor overall performance for this term: Luvuyo Hebe, Ward 90= 5/10. Mlulami Velem, Ward 87= 1/10. Monde Mabandla, Ward 89= 3/10. Monde Nqulwana, Ward 91= 4/10. Ntomboxolo Kopman, Ward 18=2/10. Patrick Mgxunyeni, Ward 94= 7/10. Mavis Mafoko, Ward 92 = 3/10. Amos Komeni, Ward 93= 4/10. Anele Gabuza, Ward 97= 3/10. Mthwalo Alfred Mkutshwana, Ward 98=6/10. We note with great concern the some councillors award small tenders to their confidantes. There is factionalism and manipulation of processes of electing WDFs and Ward Committees. People protest only when there are rumours of housing corruption, or food parcels go to a certain corner.

Because they are political heads, they control the budget, and they ensure that they are always in the top 5 of BECs holding strategic positions. Most parties try to woo semi-illiterate poor. This is done by extending largesse, including, food parcels or donation towards the erection of a much needed structure. The educated class believes that whoever wins an election, nothing much will change. They are earning sufficient money and the government spending on policies will not affect them. So in this situation when there is no incentive to elect a good representative, they elect whoever is known to them or friend of person known to them.

Most of the time the nominees from parties are from rich class who can spend during elections. So they form a chain to lure their friends and friends of friends to vote for them. This leads to election of incompetent political representative if he can form better chain than others. The elections are not fought on principles, opinions for important policies, or work done earlier.

. Yalwa is an honours student in Political Philosophy and Economics at UNISA.

. The views expressed above do not necesarily reflect those of CityVision’s editor.

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