Public participation is a vital part of our democracy, and allows for citizens to get involved in how their communities are governed. At local government level the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act, 1998, requires, among others, that municipalities develop mechanisms to consult communities and community organisations in performing their functions and exercising its powers. These structures are known as Ward Committees, and are regarded as the statutory structures recognised by the municipal council as its consultative body and communication channel on matters affecting the ward, including, but not limited to:
• Representing the community on the compilation and implementation of the Integrated Development Plan; • monitor the performance of the municipality, raise issues of concern to the local ward; • Ensuring constructive and harmonious interaction between the municipality and the community; • Attending to all matters that affect and benefit the community; • Acting in the best interest of the community, and • Ensuring active participation of the community in the municipality’s budgetary process; and • assist with community awareness campaigns e.g. waste, water and sewage, payment of fees and charges, as members know their local communities and their needs.
Ward Committees give meaning to the notion of “the people shall govern”. This is so because local government is regarded as the level of government closest to the people and ward committees are just one way to ensure that citizens give input to the decisions that local councils make. The elected ward councillor chairs meetings of the Ward Committee. He/she must ensure that meetings are regularly held, that minutes are kept and that decisions are conveyed to the Municipal Council. It is important to know that a ward committee and its ward councilor, once elected, represent all stakeholders within that ward, and not a particular political party.
(Source: Guidelines for the Establishment and Operation of Municipal Ward Committees, Notice 26799, government Gazette of 24 June 2005)
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