The era of poorly qualified local government councillors may be drawing to an end if a proposal by the provincial department of local government is accepted. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA
Cape Town - The era of poorly qualified local government councillors may be drawing to an end if a proposal by the provincial department of local government is accepted by political parties.

The department’s accounting officer, Graham Paulse, told the legislature’s Standing Committee on Local Government that he and MEC Anton Bredell had held regular discussions on the quality of councillors.

“We are concerned and that’s why we’re trying to do stuff to improve the quality of councillors.”

Paulse said they were thinking about putting a document together for political parties and in it they would say: “Given our own experience in the province and what we’ve seen and think the people deserve, if you go through a process of election etc, we ask you perhaps to consider these characteristics, these qualities, so that it helps us at the end to get a better councillor in a municipal council and actually this will lessen our burden in dealing with the subsequent fallout, in terms of inappropriate council decisions.”

The accounting officer was responding to questions from committee members Daylin Mitchell from the DA, and Danville Smith and Patrick Marran from the ANC.

“If we have a better councillor, there will be better forms of council decisions and then the place will be governed properly, in our view,” said Paulse.

Bredell said: “There is a need for more resilience in addressing the persistent challenges in the local government system.”

Marran said he was glad there were moves to strengthen councillors with training and education, and he hoped it would “stop the bleeding in local government”.

Following the 2016 municipal elections, the department has instituted a number of programmes to prepare incoming councillors to govern and lead the country.

“In 2016, we had some challenges and that’s when we decided to train them.

“We, as the department, have given various accredited training ourselves and also we have partnered with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Nelson Mandela University, Stellenbosch University and UWC to provide training,” said Paulse.

Councillors and other council officials have been trained in fields as diverse as leadership development, communication skills, disaster management, municipal service delivery and municipal finance management.

“We put a lot of effort in but we still see, on a regular basis, that councils are taking decisions which are outside the parameters of the law,” said Paulse.

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Cape Argus