The channel of communication between a community and local government has to be open and effective. Informationfrom the community has to reach the correct/proper official within e.g. a municipality in the appropriate amount of time and vice versa. Should proper channels of communication not be in place, it might feel to residents as if their voice is ignored, and in return the community might not react to by-laws or requests from a municipal council. A lack of good communication, breaks trust. The practical end of this is that issues reported by the public do not get resolved and council don't get positive reaction from the community.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said in Sept 2021“an accountable, accessible and reachable leadership is key to a well-run local government in the country.” Strong communication in local government creates trust in its citizens. The hope is that this trust will inspire citizens to become involved in their communities. As the relationship builds between governments and citizens, over time, citizens will come to realise that their concerns matter.
Local government communication is the essential lifeblood and a strategic element in service delivery. Municipality's ability to deliver optimal transparent, productive, communication and interaction at all levels is key to a community’s success. As we live in an era of rapid change and great complexity, the challenges facing societies, communities and organisations are intricate and difficult, and there is a general need for leadership in communication from local government. Municipality's communication has a critical role to play in harnessing goodwill for productive purposes; in helping to shape the mood of communities.
How should local government communicate with the public?
Local government must announce and explain new policies/bylaws, as well as involve the community through public participation in different stages of policymaking. Some examples of how local government can communicate with the public include: Public campaigns on radio and the internet to inform people about government policy. Do not underestimate the value of social media which offers many options to anyone wishing to get a message out.
In the case of Mafube, the position of Communications Officer has been vacant since 2014 and despite being urged by National government to fill this critical position, there has been no effort from the municipality. This is a cause of immense frustration and a suspicion that the municipality intentionally want to “keep things grey”. Similarly,Mafube have been warned over and over of their obligation to maintain an effective website - this is not just a nice to have but a legal requirement. Even when information is specifically requested from municipal officials, there is a seemingly unwillingness to respond in accordance with their legal obligation.Mafube Business Forum (MBF) are of the view that Mafube Local Municipality will never recover unless the importance of proper communication is realised.