Key Points:

  • The White Paper on local government fails to resolve the tension between the desire for strong local government as an engine for growth and development, and the reality of a sector in fundamental crisis.
  • In 1996, 8 million people had minimal access to sanitation; 17 million people did not have access to electricity; and 8 million people did not have formal road access to their residence.
  • One element of the crisis currently afflicting local government in South Africa is a lack of sufficient administrative, managerial, and financial capacity in many local authorities, to enable them to function as viable entities.
  • The White paper posits that to be effective entities, local government authorities must – in addition to delivering basic services – push for the decentralisation of implementation functions from the national government. These pressures seem impossible for local government authorities that function with limited resources.
  • Local government policy and legislation should build on the broad principles that national government assumes a facilitative role with respect to local government and that the establishment of a general framework for local government must be relegated to towns and cities to decide for themselves what would suit their circumstances best.