Sun, 30 Sep, 2012
"I have the first say and the last say." These were the words of Makana's Ward 3 councillor Marcelle Booysen as she reasserted her role as an elected representative of her constituency this week.
Finally breaking her silence on what she claims is a political attack by an ANC faction in her ward committee, Booysen denies allegations that she has sown racial division among members of her constituency and says she wants a new bank of community advisors.
She spoke freely to Grocott's Mail this week about the protests against her last month, and the continuing efforts to have her removed from office. Residents from Ward 3 marched to the municipality on 7 August, demanding that the council remove Booysen as Ward councillor with immediate effect, claiming she was creating racial divisions.
Ward 3 comprises eight areas. In the week of the march, and subsequently, Booysen had kept mum on the conflict. "I wanted this to go before Council before I commented, because I didn't want to jeopardise my case," Booysen said this week.
She said Council made a decision last week that the Municipal Public Accounts Committee should investigate allegations by Ward 3 residents. The latter complained that council Speaker Rachel Madinda-Isaac had failed to respond to a list of grievances about Booysen's conduct that they'd sent her.
s a result, they said, they'd taken matters into their own hands. "We would not have resolved to march if the Speaker had responded to our letters and addressed our complaints about Councillor Booysen," march-leader Xabiso Ngqawana, who is also a ward committee member, told Grocott's Mail during the August protest.
He said the community had had enough of Booysen. "She is causing racial divisions in the community between black and coloured residents," Ngqawana said.
However, Booysen remains adamant that she has never caused any racial divisions between members of the community. "I would never do such a thing. I love people and I put myself forward to help them," Booysen told Grocott's Mail.
"People who really know me would tell you that I was a community worker. Saying that I am causing a barrier between them is uncalled for. She accused ANC members of pulling the race card every time things did not go their way and said this was an attack from the ANC members in her ward committee. They have now a thing called Operation Take Back. Ward committee members are not supposed to work against the councillor, they are supposed to advise me," Booysen said.
Booysen says those fronting in the protests against her are from Phola Park, a new area in her ward. "Those people were not even there when I was voted as councillor. They disrupted a community meeting which we called with Director Myalato."
"They came in with pangas and caused chaos in that meeting," Booysen said. Now she wants a new ward committee. "I can't work with my ward committee at all. There are a few of them who did not sign the petition - but I want people I can work with," Booysen said.
Asked last month why they were marching against Booysen, ward committee members emphasised that they were marching as members of the community, not as members of the ward committee. Booysen's rejoinder to this was: "Once elected, the ward committee represents Makana Municipality. They can't do as the public. They are paid by the municipality and they are part of the council," she said.
Ward committee members receive a stipend of R1 000 a month. The investigation into the allegations against Booysen are due to be completed next week.
The rules about local government representatives
According to the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) website, the functions of Ward Councillor and Ward Committee are as follows:
Role of the ward councillor (chairperson)" A ward councillor is directly elected to represent and serve the people in a specific ward, and is the chairperson of the ward committee. The ward councillor should make sure that the interests of all the people in the ward are represented in council as properly as possible.
The ward councillor should be in touch with the issues in the area, understand the key problems and monitor development and service delivery. In committees, caucus and council meetings the ward councillor is the direct link between the council and the citizens Ward Committee.
The most relevant functions of a ward committee are: (a) To serve as an official specialised participatory structure in the municipality; (b) To create formal unbiased communication channels as well as co-operative partnerships between the community and the council.
This may be achieved as follows: (i) Advise and make recommendations to the ward councillor on matters and policy affecting the ward; (ii) Assist the ward councillor in identifying conditions, challenges and the needs of residents.