Councillors’ role in the South African local government sector is complex and demand specific skills, expertise and knowledge about the municipal context and its dynamics. Councillors require an in-depth understanding of their oversight and leadership mandate since the community they serve increasingly place higher demands on the capacity of municipal councils to respond to their rising expectations and service demands. Three core dimensions of the councillor’s mandate are to –
• Act as legitimate representative of the community they serve;
• Provide general leadership and monitoring and oversight roles in the council; and
• Act as custodians of municipal resources, especially public finances.
Critical to this mandate is the requirement that they work to improve the lives of all members of the community. However, building capacity of councillors is complicated by issues such as the lack of adequate induction and orientation programmes, limited municipal capacity, relative low levels of political and administrative commitment, and tight timeframes for the delivery of services.