South Africa: Listen to Communities' Demands to Improve the Province

opinion

Recent events within the Eastern Cape's socio-political landscape are stark indicators of the perils of weakened state capacity. On Monday 24 February - a day before the tabling of the State of the Province Address, protesters blocked off the N2 outside the provincial administrative capital. Service delivery protests and their frequency potentially offer an important litmus test of communities' state of satisfaction with municipal performance, so too the trend of civic actors looking to the courts for relief.

In January 2020, the Eastern Cape High Court handed down a landmark judgment directing the dissolution of Makana Local Municipality's Council under Section 139 (1)(c) of the Constitution, naming Premier Oscar Mabuyane among the long list of state respondents. According to the applicants (the Unemployed People's Movement), Makana has failed to deliver basic services to its residents, breaching its constitutional mandate.

Makana is of course not the only Eastern Cape municipality accused of failing to fulfil the most basic of obligations. Weak municipal capacity has been placed under the spotlight by the Auditor-General whose 2019 municipal audit reports indicate that many municipalities showed regressions in performance and overall financial health. Well-functioning municipalities are core to a capable state, defined as one that...

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