Local government in South Africa has previously faced serious questions around a perceived lack of effective leadership in the local government reform process, and a clear and coherent framework for structuring that process.
At CDE’s second Roundtable on local government, the spotlight fell on the progress municipalities have made towards achieving the government’s goal of ‘developmental local government’, as well as priorities and challenges for future development.
The Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) has made significant progress towards establishing democratic and non-racial local government. However, major challenges remain, and the DPLG’s performance has been inadequate in important areas.
There are problems with integrating previously separate municipal administrations, staffing them with enough skilled people, making new municipalities financially viable, and reducing dangerously high levels of municipal debt, now estimated at R25 billion.
The DPLG should become less prescriptive and more facilitative. Imposing regulations and prescriptions on municipalities will not in itself make local government work.