November 17, 2018

News:

SALGA’s Zanoxolo Futwa

1on1-the-weekly

theweekly-coThe South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in the Free State this week started rolling out its integrated induction programme for the newly appointed councillors.

The programme is aimed at giving the councillors an insight into the work that awaited them over their five-year team.

The Weekly’s Martin Makoni sought further explanation on what the induction entailed and how important it was from SALGA provincial executive officer Zanoxolo Futwa. Excerpts:

Can you please give an outline of the integrated induction programme for councillors and why it is necessary?
It is customary for SALGA that after every local government election, such as the one held on August 3, that we prepare and equip the incoming representatives in local government firstly by swearing them in as councillors who will then be deployed in various municipalities, that will be 24 municipalities in the context of the Free State and 257 municipalities nationally.

This is the fifth administration of local government in South Africa.

As part of the transitional arrangements, SALGA put together a process of managing the period prior to the election, during the elections and afterwards.

The post-election process started with receiving the newly elected public representatives as councillors in municipalities.

That process must start at least 14 days after the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has gazetted who is elected. In the context of the Free State, that process happened from August 16-25.

All councils in the province have been inaugurated. We have about 621 councillors serving in 24 municipalities in the province. The second part of that involves us preparing the councillors for the work that they are going to do.

What exactly are the new councillors being taught during this induction?
It starts with the councillors being prepared to enter the environment of local government. We take into consideration that the just ended elections have given a set of people that were experienced in local government and were part of local government in the last term and a new set of people that may not be familiar with the environment.

This year’s induction was prepared having gone through a detailed analysis of the impact and the efficacy of our inductions in 2006 and 2011.

This induction has been prepared taking into consideration the gaps that were identified in the past. We set out to improve on those issues and this year we have what is called an Integrated Councillor Induction Programme.

We have worked together with partners such as cooperative governance and traditional affairs, national treasury and the School of Governance in putting together a detailed programme that looks at areas that were key points of concern in the manner in which councillors in the last term handled themselves. Some of the issues include: the various roles that the councillors have been playing and the limitations that the councillors had with regard to their skills, their exposure and their ability to undertake the roles that they were assigned to.

How much substance does the induction material have and how relevant is it beyond the municipal working environment?
One of the things that we have improved on is that it is fully accredited with the local government SETA. There are about nine detailed modules which look at preparing a person generically to deal with and understand the local government environment.

These modules will then be given to the councillors over a five-day period of consecutive training. The programme looks at various aspects of the role of a councillor. It looks at the councillor’s understanding of the local government legislative environment, their understanding of how a municipality works, the oversight role and financial management, among others. We have dedicated at least two and a half days to discussing various financial management aspects.

The reason for this is that we are linking this in more detail to the other work that we are doing. The induction is part of the broader SALGA programme of developing capacity of the local government sector, the public representatives as well as officials. It is an on-going programme with three levels namely: the generic induction currently underway, this will be followed up with a portfolio based induction and there will also be a municipal induction programme aimed at preparing the councillors for the particular municipalities that they will be working in.

While councillors are essentially public representatives, they are not necessarily professionals and most do not have a full grasp of the issues that they have to deal with. How much will this induction programme try to address this and do you think that could result in improved service delivery?
One of SALGA’s resolutions for this term is to ensure that there is professionalisation of the sector. We would like this to happen at both the level of the political representatives and officials. We want to see true professionalism in the local government sector by strengthening things that have been working well, plugging any operational gaps and ensuring that issues that are emphasised in the “Back to Basics” plan are implemented. We want to ensure that service delivery is provided in a quality and professional manner.

Will councillors that have served in the last municipal term be required to undergo the full induction programme, how important is it for them to do so given that they already know some of the basics?
I think that’s a very important point. We also had to go and explain a couple of things to the councillors. As SALGA we have suggested that this be a compulsory training for all because this training has taken into consideration a number of things that did not exist in 2006 and 2011. It also takes into consideration, for example, the different levels at which municipal councillors are going to be entering the environment.

A councillor that is entering local government with a standard 10 qualification and a councillor that holds a degree, we are going to have a programme that takes that councillor and advances them. The induction programme will give a councillor a step that will elevate them to between NQ3 to NQ5 level of qualification. If one is already above that qualification, we will post them to the relevant councillor capacity building programme.

How much weight does the course material carry, how much of this can be used outside the local government sphere?
In the Free State we already have a memorandum of understanding with the University of Fort Hare to provide a full diploma in law to our councillors. The first cycle of those councillors is expected to complete that diploma by the end of September. So we are trying to ensure that the people that enter the system whether as public representatives or they are appointed as officials, they are able to have a life beyond local government.

One of the challenges identified by nearly all municipalities in the country was the lack of resources, both human and financial. Is this induction in any way going to equip councillors with some of these skills needed at municipalities?
Local government is a very difficult environment in that a councillor is expected to be a ‘jack of all trades’, to find solutions to everything and you are the face of government. We have looked at all these things and incorporated them in the training.

We have selected our facilitators very carefully to make sure that we have people that are also going to play the role of mentoring. In the programme itself, we have specific modules that are also dealing with the issue of getting advisory support and advisory training on how to be a leader within a dynamic environment like local government where you are expected to do more with little resources.

This term of municipality is quite unique in that you have opposition taking control of some of the municipalities and they are likely to come up with their own ways of doing things. How are you going to marry or balance those diverse views with your teachings during and after the induction programme?
SALGA is an association of municipalities. The municipalities put us into existence and we represent all municipalities equally. SALGA is a non-partisan association whose main role is to ensure that we represent local government.

We lobby on behalf of the interests of local government as a sector. Having municipalities being led by different political parties doesn’t change anything in terms of the interface between SALGA and municipalities. We continue to put together systems or tools of support that are looking at sector problems regardless of party affiliation. So, we do not foresee any challenges from a SALGA point of view.

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