Meeting to speed up delivery, curb protests

WARD committee members from all over KwaZulu-Natal yesterday gathered at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre to share ideas on how they can speed up service delivery and minimise protests.

About 800 ward committee members in the province put aside their political differences for a good cause.

They discussed new plans to improve public participation in municipalities to counter the rising number service delivery protests.

Five years ago the government came up with a strategy to form ward committees to ensure that communities get involved in local government development issues.

Addressing hundreds of ward committee members, MEC for cooperative governance Nomusa Dube said some ward committees were nothing but an extension of political parties. They did not represent the interests of communities.

Dube said ward committees were not performing their duties because they had become an extension of their political parties.

"Their poor performance was mainly caused by the fact that they (committees) had been heavily politicised," Dube said.

There are omnipresent allegations that councillors directly influence the process of selecting ward committee members so that they are in line with their political affiliations," Dube said.

She said some of the ward committees had tried hard to deliver according to their mandate, but the challenge is that they do not go back to the communities that elected them.

"Committees are not accountable to councillors but to the communities. And they should be able to hold a councillor accountable to the community too," Dube said.

She said their view was that ward committees should be inclusive and democratic - from nominations to election.

New ward committee members were expected to be elected before the coming local government elections early next year.

Dube said properly constituted ward committees would ensure that pressing issues were dealt with before they led to service delivery protests.

Dube also appealed to the municipalities to budget adequately for the resources of ward committees.

She said committee members also found it difficult to operate because they had to dig deep into their pockets when they attended meetings.