'We deserve better': Deputy minister bemoans lack of skills among councillors

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  • Deputy Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Thembisile Simelane-Nkadimeng has bemoaned the lack of skills among councillors. 
  • She was speaking on News24's election podcast, Ballot Box. 
  • This as 62% of councillors could not use basic computers. 

Deputy Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Thembisile Simelane-Nkadimeng says she hopes the municipal elections will see the election of more capacitated and skilled councillors.

An assessment complied by the SA Local Government Association (Salga) found about 62% of councillors had been unable to use basic computers to enable the passing of crucial municipal budgets.

This was evident as the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the country and various municipalities were expected to pass budgets for 2019/20.

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Simelane-Nkadimeng said political parties and Salga had to ensure refresher courses for councillors, adding they had to take charge of their own education with avenues and funds made available.

"We just hope, this time around, we will be able to receive capacitated individuals. Yes everyone, including ourselves as Cogta [Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs], carry the responsibility of refresher enhancement.

"But to a certain extent, if you are a councillor in the City of Johannesburg, which controls around R6.3 billion, you need to be able to understand finances, you need to be able to get the basics of an income statement." 

She was speaking on News24's election podcast, Ballot Box. 

PODCAST | Ballot Box: Why is local government so bad?

The department had made funds available to councillors to register for higher education, Simelane-Nkadimeng said, adding only about 38% of them were competent to fulfill their duties, saying:

I mean, out of that 62%, the remainder of about 38% are qualified councillors. But as a country, we deserve more.

Another issue plaguing the local government sphere was poor financial management, with many municipalities being flagged by the Auditor-General. 

Salga found only seven municipalities were doing well, while 31% were dysfunctional, 30% were functional and 32% were in distress. 

Simelane-Nkadimeng said one of the measures the department and National Treasury would explore was withholding funding to municipalities to force accountability. 

Those municipalities that have issues will be asked to address them before funding from the government is distributed.

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She added the measure would not harm residents because instead of the municipality receiving the funds, the department providing the services would be paid directly. 

This would minimise the harm to residents who paid for services, but would also force accountability from officials, Simelane-Nkadimeng said.

"In terms of finances and the next one [grant] is coming or should be distributed to municipalities now in December. We have already, together with the National Treasury, put plans in place, writing letters to municipalities for them to meet certain conditions before the money could be transferred.  

"We have learnt from our experiences that you cannot keep on ploughing financial resources where accountability lets and deliberately so. 

"You've got to fix the non-accountability issue and then make sure that you do not punish the citizens on them receiving the services that they deserve because you are fixing accountability. That's what we are putting on the table in the requirements for the batch to be released in December," she added.

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