Though it is still shocking to hear 64 of South Africa’s municipalities are considered dysfunctional – only 5% of the country’s municipalities are financially stable – it is not news to anyone working in town and regional planning or the municipal environment.
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a virtual address to the 6th national conference of the SA Local Government Association (Salga), taking place in Cape Town this week.
“We – and anyone in this country with any awareness – have known for more than a decade that most of South Africa’s municipalities are dysfunctional,” says Burgert Gildenhuys, director at BC Gildenhuys & Associates, specialising in spatial planning, finances, infrastructure investment, and urban economies. “The president said that the government was committed to additional measures to strengthen local government, but more new interventions and more new plans will not be the solution to the situation.”
According to Gildenhuys, local problems require local solutions. Municipalities must be cut loose from their central and provincial government umbilical cords.
“There is no more space for failure,” he affirms. “It is wonderful to have the Municipal Structures Amendment Act to enforce a revised code of conduct for councillors and say there will be consequences if they do not adhere to it. But, can we believe it? Or will there be another revised code of conduct in a year to sort out poor governance, weak institutional capacity, poor financial management, corruption and political instability?”.
During his address, Ramaphosa urged leaders to change their ways. But Gildenhuys warns that people must take responsibility and look after themselves.