Durban - The SA Local Government Association (Salga) in KZN has called for the upskilling of councillors to make them competitive in the job market and reduce the fierce and violent contestation for councillor positions.
Salga said it believed that giving councillors’ meaningful education will give them career options and reduce political-related murders.
KZN Salga chairperson Thami Ntuli called for municipalities to invest in councillors’ education to provide them options for a life outside politics.
Currently, municipalities are only offering short courses for upskilling councillors. But at least one municipality said in its case, this could change with councillors being offered opportunities in tertiary education following the change in rules governing the process.
The chairperson’s advice comes after a recent audit outcome by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Government (Cogta) which found that nearly 300 councillors in the province cannot read and write.
Ntuli said educating councillors would help them play their oversight roles much more effectively.
“What we are pleading for is that the councillors should be given opportunities to study for degrees, the City officials are the ones who are well-paid and they are given those opportunities. We call on the municipalities to give councillors the same opportunity, for now they are only given an opportunity to study short courses.
“This is why councillors get killed, because they are seen as being in the way (of someone becoming a councillor). If they have an education, they could have options outside of politics,” he said.
In the eThekwini Metro, only six councillors have taken up the opportunity funded by the metro to educate themselves this year. This is out of a total of 222 councillors in eThekwini. The municipality had made available thousands of rand for councillors to study.
In the 2022/23 financial year, six applications were successful at a total cost of R159 787. Since 2019 there was a total of R347 687 budgeted for assisting councillors who want to pursue further education.
The City of Cape Town said it has 231 councillors and the available budget for Councillor Training is R2 482 129, with only short courses and development training being offered on a first come, first serve basis.
Felicity Purchase, Speaker of the City of Cape Town said: “The City of Cape Town, through its Councillor Support department, offers councillor training to councillors on the sphere of local government, either through the South African Local Government Association (Salga) or accredited institutions in terms of our legislative requirements.
“Prior to the most recent Determination of Upper Limits of Salaries, Allowances and Benefits of Different Members of Municipal Councils, as issued on 18
August 2023, no provision was made for allowance given to councillors for bursaries towards tertiary studies.
“However, the current determination, as issued by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, has removed this limitation. As such, the City of Cape Town Council must still determine its approach in this regard,” she said.
DA councillor in eThekwini Mzamo Billy said they were concerned by the low number of councillors who are showing interest in furthering their studies and the limited budget allocation by the municipality for councillor training.
“This is a double blow. We will lobby the Speaker of council, Thabani Nyawose to make more funds available for councillors who want to improve their education level. Also more importantly, councillors across political parties must be strongly encouraged to learn,” he said.
ANC eThekwini councillor Nkosenhle Madlala agreed that too few councillors were taking the opportunity to study further.
“The number is concerning but we also understand that the financial state of the municipality has not been good and we hope that as that situation improves, more people will take up the opportunity that would enable them to live after politics.”
He said the number of councillors that are studying could be higher as some councillors were studying but were not funded by the municipality.