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Op-ed: Local government in South Africa – largely dysfunctional, mostly corrupt

Governance specialist, columnist and lawyer, Judith February, writes for the Daily Maverick on the state of local government in South Africa.

February argues that "Local government across the country is in crisis. A cursory look at the Constitution, the Municipal Systems and Structures Acts and the Inter-governmental Framework Relations Act provides proof that what we had envisaged for local government and the status quo are, indeed, worlds apart. For all the transparency the law requires in relation to municipal financial management and the consultation envisaged as being integral to Integrated Development Programmes (IDPs), the grim reality is that local government is largely dysfunctional.

The Auditor-General has repeatedly warned against the state of financial management in municipalities, and the government’s own analysis in its 2009 “state of local government” report indicates how severe the challenges of lack of capacity, mismanagement and corruption are at the local level.

Tackling this complex set of challenges will require a combination of leadership, political will, training and tough decisions on ensuring the rule of law prevails in municipalities that are often run as personal fiefdoms. It is worthwhile revisiting this 2009 local government report. It is frank about the patronage networks many local government municipalities have become. It states unambiguously that party factionalism has led, in many parts, to the “progressive deterioration of municipality functionality”.

Furthermore it identifies weak oversight, overly complex legislation which municipalities are unable to get to grips with, corruption, skills deficits and tensions between the political and administrative interface as bedevilling local government’s efficacy. In addition, the pressure on metros has increased with urbanisation. Apartheid spatial development, too, continues to entrench socio-economic vulnerability, the report says."

Click here to access the full article, as sourced from Daily Maverick on 29 May 2018.

Photo: Ashraf Hendricks for GroundUp, licenced under CC BY - ND 4.0