04 Apr 2005
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By Engel Nawatiseb
LOCAL Authority Councillors are demanding equal treatment with their national political office-bearers, saying the Standing Committee on Political Office-Bearers Benefits should revisit their conditions of service.
The vice-president of the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) Pio Nganate said local authority councillors are not employed full-time, as political office-bearers have jeopardised most activities at their institutions.
According to Nganate, local authority councillors are instead employed on a full time basis elsewhere and do not get enough time for local authority affairs.
"Our authorities are feeling the pinch as a result thereof, because although we want to excel in our responsibilities, there is no way that we can divide ourselves into two. It is a joke to believe that one person can be equally committed to two bosses. The one boss will be frustrated in the process."
Nganate says ALAN has presented its proposal on the issue to the Minister of Regional, Local Government and Housing and Rural Development for consideration.
"At one stage, we are regarded as politicians, but in real fact, we are being used as rubber stamps by technocrats to implement decisions already pre-planned by them because there is no way that we can influence any process since we are not involved from the beginning," he stated.
Nganate noted that the role of local governance has changed completely considering the demand for acceleration of development and employment creation at local development level.
Nganate said that although the policy of decentralization is a welcome initiative, it requires active participation by all stakeholders, including councillors, to effect maximum successes.
" It is against this background that we are calling for equal treatment on the basis of official recognition like all other politicians to attract more commitment to local governance. We are frustrated as local councillors, we need more time to spend at our institutions (local). Imagine the Local Authorities Act of 1992 expects us to sit for a management committee and council meeting at least once per month, but we end up having more than ten meetings in one month."
This scenario, Nganate added, is created by the high demand on councillors to negotiate and lobby for development and investment opportunities with local, national and external bodies on a frequent basis.
"Sometimes, we find ourselves in limbo as no councillor can be released from his/her duty when important visiting delegations come to meet us. At the same time, we are expected to address community issues after official working hours, sometimes late at night at your house. We cannot turn our people away, we are here to serve them at anytime, but is it really fair to us (local) councillors to attend to two responsibilities at the same time?
"It is really time to revisit the provisions of the Act by contemplating possible amendments to empower our councillors like any other politician," Nganate said.
Speaking to New Era, the Botswana High Commissioner to Namibia, Norman Moleboge, said local authority councillors in his country have been put on a permanent establishment at municipalities and other levels of local authority.
Moleboge noted that it was practically impossible to expect a professional job from part-time councillors considering the demand for service delivery in his country.
" I am however moved by your charisma to fulfill all your functions under the given circumstances. At least here in (Namibia), the system seems to be working out wonders but down home, we find it difficult to operate effectively. There is no way that our local authority councillors can have double interests in a societal role that they are expected to play," he stressed.
The public relations officer of the Tsumeb municipality, Kaembo Kasiringua, noted that the actions of administrators at various councils should be supplemented by councillors' advice and contributions on a daily basis.
"If we operate in isolation with each other, we could take uninformed decisions that could impact negatively on the local authorities. It is true that our councillors, hard working for that matter, also render maximum patriotism to their 'authentic' employers. The crux of the matter is that the demand for service delivery at local authority institutions is much higher than considered previously."
He said the line ministry should at least consider introducing the portfolios of mayor and chairperson to the management committee on the fixed establishment of councils.
He added that such a move could promote flexibility towards service delivery and provide easy consultation on crucial aspects confronting the local authorities daily.