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.