A total of 27 ANC councillors from various municipalities in the Western Cape had resigned by Friday last week, giving ground to the newly formed Congress of the People (Cope). This is, according to the Independent Electoral Commission, the largest number of resignations during a single term since 1994.
But while opposition parties such as the Independent Democrats, Democratic Alliance and the United Democratic Movement have all welcomed the broadening of the political landscape, there may be some costs in terms of service delivery at local government level.
The City of Cape Town has experienced 12 resignations, eight of which are ward councilors and four proportional representatives, meaning service delivery in these ward areas may be hampered, even after by-elections have taken place, said the City’s Chief Whip Anthea Serritslev this week.
Even after the councilors posts are filled following the December 10 by-elections, Serritslev said the new councilors would be inexperienced and would take a while to find their feet.
“It will therefore take them awhile to get up to speed and be in a position to serve their communities as efficiently as would be expected at this halfway stage of the term of office of councilors,” said Serritslev.
And it may not be isolated wards which are rudderless. Five out of the six ANC councilors representing the wards making up Philippi’s David Mthetho Ntlanganiso Sub-Council resigned last week amongst resounding support from residents in their respective wards.
However, the Philippi ward councilors said they expected to be re-elected into their positions, only this time they would be representing the Congress of the People (Cope).
But ward vacancies announced after the November 12 cut off for the December 10 by-elections, would only be contested in a yet-to-be-announced date in the New Year, probably in February or March.
“The positions will be vacant for a lengthy time. Ward forums, which the ward councilors chair, will be affected by delays whilst the new chairpersons acquaint themselves with council policies and procedures,” said Serritslev.
However, she said service delivery problems would be diluted by the fact that sub-council chairs and managers would continue playing their roles.
Last week the City removed all the resigned councilors from its database immediately after the councilors handed in their resignations, meaning the councillors are no longer part of the City’s management and leaving communities in need of councillor services in limbo.
City communication manager Charles Cooper said this was standard practice once councilors had communicated their resignations to the City.
Senior advisor on Political Information and Monitoring Services at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) Paul van Hoof said negative impacts on service delivery would depend on how long councilor posts would be vacant.
Van Hoof said constituencies would not be able to voice their concern on service delivery because there would be no one to attend to their grievances.
“These resignations affect the accountability of administration. Vacant posts should be carefully monitored and immediately filled to avoid major impact on service delivery,” he said.
The resignations could have disrupted planned meetings and discussions of important matters relating to communities.
“Definitely there are meetings put on hold until the by-elections pass,” he said.
* Reporting by Sandiso Phaliso.