South Africa’s community workers

28 November 2005

South Africa has a new category of public servant. Community development workers will help the government with service delivery by improving communication and helping local people to access services to which they are entitled.

Community development workers – a concept introduced by President Thabo Mbeki in 2003 – are multi-skilled public servants deployed in communities to help people access government services and poverty alleviation programmes.

They work as community facilitators, focusing on finding solutions to identified needs and blockages by interacting with national, provincial and local government structures.

The first intake of 1 300 community development workers has just completed its one-year training programme – combining class-based and in-service training – at institutions such as the University of the Western Cape. A further 900 community development workers were recruited in November.

Speaking at launch of the community development workers programme in Winterveldt in the Western Cape last week, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi urged the workers to help ensure that government was “based on the will of the people”.

“You must live with the people, walk with them and talk their language,” Fraser-Moleketi said.

As part of their work, community development workers will interact with ward committees, councillors and local municipalities, among others.

“We assure you that all spheres of government will provide support for you”, Fraser-Moleketi said.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, also speaking at the launch, encouraged community development workers to learn about the challenges South Africa faced in social welfare, infrastructure, education and health provision.

Describing community development workers as “our future managers in the public service,” she urged councillors to partner with them in the development of the country.

One community development worker, Nosisa Mbatha (24) from the Hibiscus Coast Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, told BuaNews that since starting her new job in February, “I have since known a lot of ordinary people, helping them to access government services such as social grants.”

Mbatha said she hoped her contribution would help the country meet the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty and underdevelopment by 2015.

Next week, she said, they would be holding workshops for people on how to participate in the country’s African Peer Review Mechanism.

The community development workers programme is driven nationally by the Department of Public Service and Administration. reporter and BuaNews

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