On March 26, voters in selected wards will go to the polls to choose local government representatives to fill vacant seats left by the recalled/deceased councillors.
Residents have complained about the calibre of their council representatives with some blaming them for the deteriorating service delivery in their localities.
How do Councillors assume office?
Part V of the Urban Councils Act under Election of Councillors and Appointment of Caretakers, subsection 47 talks about how councillors assume office.
“Assumption of office by councillor (1) A person who is deemed to have been elected as a councillor at the close of the nomination court in terms of section 103M of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:01], or who is declared to have been elected in terms of section 103N of that Act following the withdrawal of a candidate, shall assume office—
- in the case of the first election of councilors, on the date on which the council comes into being
(b) in the case of a by-election to fill a special vacancy on the council, at the time at which the Registrar-General posts a notice at his office in terms of section 103M of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:01] notifying his election or, as the case may be, declares him to have been elected in terms of section 103N of that Act
(c) in the case of a general election of councillors, on the day following polling day.”
The Urban Councils Act states that Councillors have to take an oath before the Town Clerk.
“Item (2) Any person who is elected as a councillor as a result of a poll shall assume office—
- in the case of a first election, on the date of the coming into being of the council
(b) in the case of any subsequent general election or by-election, on the day following polling day.(3) Before undertaking any duty as such, a councillor shall take and subscribe before the town clerk of the council such oath of loyalty and office as may be prescribed,” says the Urban Councils Act.
The Urban Councils Act under item (6) states that a councillor elected at a by-election shall hold office for the remainder of the term for which the councillor whom he is replacing would otherwise have remained in office.
What role do they play?
Chapter 14 of the Constitution on the Provincial and Local Government, Part 3 subsection 276 states that 1) Subject to this constitution and any Act of Parliament, a local authority has the right to govern, on its own initiative, the local affairs of the people within the area to which it has been established, and has all the powers necessary for it to do so.
- An Act of Parliament may confer functions on local authorities, including-
(a) a power to make by-laws, regulations or rules for the effective administration of the area for which they have been established:
b) a power to levy rates and taxes and generally to raise sufficient revenue for them to carry out their objects and responsibilities
Part V of the Urban Councils Act Item (8) says Councillors shall attend to monthly Council meetings.
“A council shall designate for the purposes of subsection (2) which meetings of the council shall be regarded as ordinary meetings and shall ensure—(a) that at least one meeting of the council in each calendar month is designated an ordinary meeting; and (b) that each committee of the council, other than a special committee, holds at least one meeting in each calendar month: Provided that this paragraph shall not apply in respect of any calendar month in which the town clerk or secretary certifies to the council that there is no business, other than confirmation of the minutes of the previous meeting, for the committee to transact during that month,” read the Urban Councils Act.
Other functions of ward councillors include:
Crafting policies for the local authority
monitoring council progress
providing broad supervision to council management and officers