“Councillor roles need to be defined”

The role of councillors needs to be explained to communities. Dozens of ward councillors have had their homes torched and their families threatened due to ignorance.

The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) says communities do not understand what councillors do ahead of the upcoming local government elections.

It also says many councillors have failed to report back to communities thereby fermenting tensions.

Executive Manager in the Office of the CEO at SALGA, Seana Nkhahle, says councillors are finding themselves having to deal with social situations that they aren’t equipped to deal with.

“Some of them are requested to address very social and family related problems which they might not be well equipped to do. Some councillors have been requested to come into family disputes, family problems and so on,  if they are not well equipped it creates a problem but as a leader you have to do what you have to do and try the best you can,” says Nkhahle.

Proportional representation (PR) councillors like Neo Mashele say they have had to deal with a number of uncomfortable situations.

“The weirdest I think, without mentioning names, was an old lady having problems in her marriage…she thought that a councillor is a counsellor and she wanted me to sort out her marital problems as in her husband and her having intimate issues – she thought that’s what councillors do.”

Mashele has served as a PR councillor since 2011 and she says that South Africans just do not understand how local government works.

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