Local councillors need not be full-time, nor do they deserve full-time salaries

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The National Council recently resumed its work. But one wonders whether the National Council resumed its work given the fact this is a new session of a recently-elected council? Be that the case, the public has been informed and made to believe that the National Council has indeed resumed its work. Among its first business this year has been consultations with the public through public hearings on the Local Authorities Amendment Bill.

Understandably during these public hearings councillors had informed themselves that the public does not seem to have been consulted broadly or sufficiently regarding this Bill. Hence in this regard the National Council has unanimously rejected the principle of the Bill. Among the issues the members seemed uneasy about is the fact that the chief executive officer (CEO) or town clerk of any municipality must be appointed by the responsible minister, in this case the Minister of Urban and Rural Development. The honourables feel this is not in the spirit of the ongoing decentralisation process by which functions and responsibilities should be devolved to regional and local structures. And the powers to appoint as much, like in the case of the town clerk. They are submitting that if the town clerk is there to serve the local electorate, why is her/his appointment not vested with the elected local councils that are essentially and practically her/his employers, if the concept of decentralisation is to assume realistic meaning and application?
Certainly members of the National Council must have a reasonable and understandable point in this regard. Yes, one must admit that some of the local councils have not been living up to expectations in terms of governance.

But can this be the real reason why they cannot be trusted with some local autonomy like being empowered and entrusted with the employees of any local authority council, of which the town clerk is only one of them? When and at what point can local authority councils be deserving of full autonomy as in having the right and authority to appoint any local authority employee including the town clerk?

One has also been hearing that there has been clamouring, be it by the local councillors themselves or their sympathisers, for their full remuneration in terms of full salaries. This begs the question whether hitherto the councillors have not been and were not somehow being rewarded for their services? Or can one deduce this to mean full salaries for the local authority councillors? This in turn begs the question, full salaries for what?

Because councillors are actually not full-time in the service of the local councils but only provide their services when needs be, especially during sessions of the councils. Most important among their mandate is to govern the affairs of the various local authorities. Govern as opposed to managing.

Governing should ordinarily and necessarily not put, nor is it expected to put, much premium on the precious time of the councillors. Whether in being required to be in the local authority chambers more often than is necessary, except when attending council meetings to transact urgent council business, which may be once if not twice a month, that is for metropole councils like Windhoek, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.

In a nutshell councillors are basically part-timers as far as the business of their councils is concerned, to warrant full-time engagement, and thus salaries as you would have it. In fact those doing the real work, and this is without actually taking anything away from the essence and important work of the councillors, are the office-bearers of these local authorities. The chairperson of the council, and vice; mayor and deputy; members of the management committee; chairperson of the management committee, etc.
Not to mention the employees of the authorities who are doing the actual day-to-day work on a full-time basis. Certainly one must believe that the authorities are expending the requisite resources to make it easy for them to render effective and efficient service and work.

For once one cannot believe that councillors require more time than they are currently able to afford and sacrifice for their councils and the deserving electorates-cum-residents, to become full-time councillors, thereby adding an extra financial burden on most of these authorities. It is an open secret that currently most of the town councils, including even the municipal ones, have only enough to scrape through to meet the demands for services because of a shallow resource base. Given this unpalatable reality, it is inconceivable to contemplate full-time councillors on full-time salaries. Granted they are provided for adequately in terms of the requisite resources to carry out their mandates to their electorates-cum-residents, which is governorship, with the core business left to the office-bearers.

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