By Engel Nawatiseb WINDHOEK Mayors and local authority councillors who successfully completed a one-week training course in Urban Management Finance and Service Provision have appealed to the secretariat of the Local Authorities Reform Committee to propose that councillors be appointed permanently by local authorities, and for the introduction of executive mayors. The mayors endorsed support for the on-going consultations with stakeholders to reform the Local Authorities Act of 1992, which they described as outdated in certain aspects because it allegedly discriminated against some elected councillors. The councillors argued that their political mandate could not be effectively executed due to heavy pressure mounted by institutions where they are professionally employed. According to them, proposals should be made to Government to consider the permanent employment of councillors in order to bring real meaning to the respective roles they play for communities they represent at councils. It is widely reported that local authority councillors have on many occasions failed their communities in respect of efficient and effective service delivery. “It is very unfortunate – a strange but indeed true scenario because we are not entirely empowered to carry out our functions effectively. The technocrats fail us many a times but the blame is finally put on the councillors because they are unable to monitor the daily performance of institutions (councils) under whom they enjoy political authority. This is a concern to us and indeed a major setback to the enhancement of good governance,” agreed the mayors. The Managing Consultant of Pearlstone Associates, Jamine Madara, told councillors that the introduction of executive mayors to the Namibian system could streamline some of the bottlenecks experienced at local authorities. Citing the Kenyan experience, regarded as similar to Namibia’s, Madara stressed that mayors enjoy ceremonial powers but do not have the authority to take independent decisions. ” Mayors are very unhappy, they feel disadvantaged when they do not have a grasp of what’s going on in their councils. The decision-making powers are usually in the hands of executive mayors because when you are full-time, you internalize and observe the day-to-day operations of council. Namibia should consider the pros and cons and decide on the best practice suitable to your conditions,” said Madara. The mayors urged the Association for Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) to strengthen the campaign for the full recognition of mayors in the country. “We do not want to be ceremonial mayors, just to chair meetings and receive and welcome guests because from the look of things, our responsibilities end before the weekend and during weekends we cannot be held accountable. “Executive mayors are well looked after by governments, they are entitled to cars, drivers, houses and securities because they are held liable and accountable for their respective councils, they are in charge of their councils on a daily basis. “We should give impetus to a pilot phase and empower our mayors and local authority councillors to encourage effectiveness,” the mayors pointed out. Madara stressed that the transformation from ceremonial mayors to council managers should encourage them (mayors) to be knowledgeable in national, regional and international issues because this has an effect on the life of the local authority as a result of globalization. ” These initiatives have the councils and local governments as the epicenters of action and automatically enjoin mayors in the local and development strategies for action that include poverty eradication, responses to HIV/AIDS, national, regional and international peace and security.” The mayor as chairperson of a local authority has to acquaint himself/herself with developmental issues at the grass-root level, be familiar with local authority policy frameworks and be knowledgeable about national and legislative frameworks within which all the development takes place in the country. Madara said it was essential for an African mayor who provides political leadership in his/her local authority to appreciate the necessity of appreciating the dynamism of an integrated approach to local development and community by inclusive multi-sectoral strategies.
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