South Africa: Dysfunctional Municipalities Belie Ramaphosa's Infrastructure Promise


A new dawn of social infrastructure lies in wait for South Africa, the president promised last week in Parliament. But the terrible state of administrative affairs at municipalities will first have to be addressed before the country embarks on its ambitious and much-needed infrastructure drive.

South Africa has three spheres of government. That is fairly obvious. This brings with it layers of complexity. There are checks and balances galore. But outcomes fall far too short of expectations.

This is apparent at the country's municipalities. Although municipalities collectively represent the lowest sphere of government, they are arguably the more important tier of administration.

This is where most citizens interface and have a direct link with government services, from refuse collection, street lights, water and electricity to recreational facilities, including parks, beaches and public swimming pools.

There are few areas of our lives that are not touched or affected by municipal services. But there is a fundamental disconnect between how municipalities are supposed to function and how councils conduct their business.

All the signs are there of a brewing crisis, which - if not addressed - could have far-reaching consequences for the two other tiers of government and some state entities. That...

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