[Press Release] South Africa’s dysfunctional municipalities – why the decay?

Chris Hattingh | 25 Aug, 2022
The latest Macro Review, a report published by the Centre For Risk Analysis (CRA), details the current state of South Africa’s municipalities. It finds that most of South Africa’s municipalities are in serious financial trouble. They also lack the capacity to adequately deliver services, feeding into increased protest action, and negatively impacting investment and economic growth.

Gerbrandt van Heerden, Deputy Head of Research at the CRA and author of the report, summarises the dire state of most municipalities as follows: “Through gross mismanagement and unsound governance, most municipalities are reporting persistent operating deficits. In addition, the Auditor-General gave only 41 out of the country’s 257 municipalities — less than a sixth — clean audits in 2020/2021.” Consequently, service delivery is in decline.

Mr. van Heerden points to an increasing risk that could manifest in destructive forms — citizens’ frustration with poor service delivery and lack of accountability in municipalities: “According to data from Municipal IQ [a web-based data and intelligence service], service delivery protests have escalated since 2004. By May 2021, the number of service delivery protests already exceeded the combined number of protests for the years 2007 and 2008.”

As a result, largely, of the ideological and policy decisions of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), South Africa is yet to get the basics of local governance right. In the broader context, business operations, investment and expansion — and possible job opportunities — are subsequently stifled.

The report also equips businesses, policymakers, and citizens with the necessary information to help turn around municipal performance.

Mr. van Heerden makes the following recommendations:

“To improve business confidence, attract investment, and restore municipal performance, government should insist that appointments be made exclusively on merit, rather than race, gender or political loyalty; that underperforming officials be dismissed and the corrupt prosecuted; and residents and ratepayers’ organisations be more involved and given the opportunity to help address issues in their areas.”

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