Municipality literacy shock [summarised]

Xolani Mbanjwa
August 27 2008 at 06:48AM

One in three municipal councillors cannot read or write, and more lack
basic competencies to run local government finances.

Some councillors are even embarrassed to admit they do not understand
English and are therefore unable to follow council proceedings or
training sessions.

On average, only half of local government politicians have post-matric
qualifications, while only two out of 10 understand how tariffs are set
or the cost implications of municipal services.

These facts are contained in a study by the SA Local Government
Association (Salga).

A number of councillors were not comfortable in conducting business or
being trained in English.

"Some councillors are not comfortable in doing business in languages
that are not their mother-tongues. But they keep quiet because they are

The depressing figures have been fingered as one of the main
contributors of poor municipal service delivery, but also expose the
legacy of apartheid in institutions of governance.

The study - conducted since the 2006 local polls and completed late last
year - evaluated 7 000 of the country's 9 300 councillors.

"The practical implications are that if so many of them do not have
proper reading and writing skills, then we can assume that councils end
up approving budgets they can't interpret."


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