AROUND TOWN HALL CONTINUED Please cast your vote right
PLETTENBERG BAY - As residents prepare to head to the polls next month, the Plettenberg Bay Ratepayers Association has urged locals to think carefully when making their mark, as the local elections present an opportunity to turn around local government affairs in Bitou.
"As evident from the latest government reports and statistics, and our lived experience, the quality of councillors and provision of services has fallen far short of minimum expectations and has declined during every term so far," said Plettenberg Bay Ratepayers Association chair Peter Gaylard.
He noted that the South African democracy system allows voters to hold their councillors accountable and bring the necessary changes at election time every five years. "It is very important that voters do not vote blindly and unthinkingly for a political party or along racial lines. As responsible voters we must carefully consider what exactly it is that we expect of councillors and what the qualities and skills are that they must possess in order to successfully do the critically important job to the required standard."
He said time had proven that voting "unthinkingly" along party lines and trusting those parties to select suitably principled and skilled candidates had not been successful. "It is clear that voters need to carefully evaluate the individual councillors and their past voting and track records if they are standing for re-election. Although our constitution allows anybody who is eligible to vote to stand for election and occupy a seat, it is irrational to think that people without the requisite skills, experience, etc. to manage budgets running into hundreds of millions and hundreds of employees can actually do so successfully just because they belong to a political party and made themselves available."
Gaylard also appealed to all political parties to ensure that their candidates are suitably skilled and ethically suitable for the job. He said Bitou has a budget of roughly R700-million. "That is an enormous amount of money and if a councillor does not have a good understanding of the municipal finance system, he or she will not be able do one of the most important parts of their job." He said that the "actual work" of a municipality is done by the managers and officials and that it is therefore the responsibility of councillors to ensure the correct people are chosen for the correct jobs and that they comply with the relevant legislation.
He added that as residents and ratepayers the association requires all councillors to have an understanding of financial reports; act honestly and in the best interests of the community; understand the main issues facing the municipality and have a good grasp on council meeting procedures and rules of debate. They also require councillors to have integrity; a good working knowledge of municipal legislation and an understanding that they are there to serve the people of Bitou and not their political party, friends or themselves.