Councillors urged to strengthen ties with communities

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Khayelitsha – International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Nomaindia Mfeketo has called on local councillors to strengthen their ties with their constituencies and know issues on the ground.

Speaking on the side-lines of her department’s imbizo organised to engage the community on the recent attacks on foreign nationals, the Deputy Minister said this could have helped to address the issues of communities.

She said councillors must have an ear on the ground in order to know the real issues in their communities.

“That social integration with whoever lives in that area, including foreign nationals, will help because we can be able to discuss issues.

“We would be able to say to [councillors], can you assist our brothers with entrepreneurial skills so that they can open shops. That is their responsibility. When communities appoint councillors, they want to have a person who is from the government at a local level to lead and assist them,” she said.

The Deputy Minister’s call comes after President Jacob Zuma convened a meeting with government, business, the trade union movement, religious leaders, community and youth formations, traditional authorities and the sports and arts fraternities to discuss solutions aimed at ending attacks on foreign nationals.  

The President convened the meeting at the Presidential guesthouse in Pretoria following attacks on foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng that left seven people dead and several others injured.

Deputy Minister Mfeketo said it is the responsibility of local councillors, assisted by NGOs, faith-based organisations and ward committees to know each and every person in their wards, to know their issues and what they are saying in order to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future.

“One of the Constitutional responsibilities of a municipality is local economic development... If there is an area in your municipality that is not empowered economically… as a councillor you should have a plan with the municipality on how to turn that around.

“You should be checking what skills are in that particular community. You should be making sure that you use the government legislation to create co-operations. You use government legislation of rolling out skills development so that you don’t have the youth hanging around shops, ready to be incited by whoever wants to incite them.

“If communities don’t have structures, if communities are not able to take their development into their own hands, they won’t be able to say to the councillor ‘we elected you, what are you doing for us?’”

The Deputy Minister later told the imbizo that it was important for leaders at local level, as well as their respective municipalities, to know all concerns in their communities related to poverty and unemployment in order to use the intelligence to prevent the attacks.

The Deputy Minister said foreign nationals add diversity to local communities, and while it is important for them to be economically empowered, it is also crucial that citizens and foreign nationals are integrated socially so that they can share resources. –