Johannesburg residents are going back to the polls in less than three weeks, six months after casting their ballots on August 3, 2016 in the local government elections, only this time around it will be to elect committee members for the city’s 135 wards.
The ward committee elections, to be conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), will take place across the city over three consecutive Saturdays – January 28, February 4 and February 11 – at venues still to be announced.
The elections, in terms of the Local Government Act of 1998, follow a citywide educational campaign held towards the end of 2016. Ward committees play an important role in municipal affairs in that they assist democratically elected public representatives to carry out their mandate.
Patrick Nhlapo, the city’s deputy director of community participation, said: “Our process of educating citizens about the ward committee elections through workshops went quite well. We concluded the workshops on November 13 last year.”
He said there was great interest from Joburg’s residents in the elections and local councillors had even requested an extension of the workshops to certain areas in order to reach more communities.
“After the workshops, we were inundated with calls from people requesting nomination forms. We had only printed 10000 forms in the beginning. We had to go back to print 10000 more. This emanated from the adverts we ran with a number of media organisations,” Nhlapo said.
He said in many areas, such as Orange Farm, Ivory Park and Soweto, communities came in large numbers to attend the workshops.
“In other parts of the city, particularly the former white areas, the numbers showed a slight decline. We strategised and started distributing leaflets in those areas.
“It was simply because certain communities prefer other methods of public participation to attending workshops,” he said.
More than 3800 candidates have been registered.
Ballot papers will be printed as soon as the candidates’ details have been verified and the papers signed off.
Elected ward committee members will be entitled to a R1000 monthly stipend and a cellphone allowance.
The ward committees serve as advisory bodies to ward councillors.
Under the leadership of ward councillors, they facilitate meaningful participation in council affairs and in the resolution of residents’ problems, over and above other stakeholder engagements.
“Ward committees are there to encourage residents to participate actively in the affairs of local government and ensure that their issues are brought to the attention of the local municipality,” Nhlapo said. – 701578