Volume 12, Issue 1, March 2010.

Laying the Foundation for the Local Government Turnaround Strategy.

After a decade of significant advancement in the provision of services to all communities, the Policy Review on Provincial and Local Government (COGTA 2009) and other research demonstrated that confidence in government at the local level has begun to decline sharply. Service delivery protests and dissatisfaction with local government have increased over the past few years, with growing evidence that faltering service provision, poor capacity and weak administration have driven many municipalities into ‘distress’ mode.

Public Hearing on Service Delivery

In response to widespread and ongoing service delivery protests across South Africa, Parliament has established a special committee to investigate and gather information about the causes of these protests. This ad hoc committee is tasked with conducting visits to urban and rural areas, holding public hearings and generally exercising coordinated oversight in respect of service delivery and, more particularly, the problems impeding service delivery.

Municipal Rates Policies and the Urban Poor.

In urban areas, the poor continue to struggle to access well-located land. Secondary residential property markets are also constrained from functioning effectively in black townships. Recent research supported by the South African Cities Network (SACN) and Urban Landmark hasinvestigated how municipal property rates policies are, or could be, used to promote access by the poor to urban land markets.

Separating Party Politics From Governance.

The report by COGTA on the state of South African local government clearly identifies interference by political parties as a cause of the ‘dysfunctionality’ and ‘instability’ of municipalities. As the Local Government Turnaround Strategy states, political parties are ‘undermining the integrity and functioning of municipal councils through .... inappropriate interference in councils and administration.

Court Rejects the Traditional Method of Intervention in Municipalities.

As the local government turnaround strategy gains momentum (see page 7 and the editorial) and energy is focused on assessing the state of local government, the role of provincial oversight in respect of municipalities, including interventions, is critical. The Mnquma case revisited what is required of provinces in the context of an intervention. The judgment, while contributing to the debate, may, however, have raised more questions than it provided answers.

Service Delivery by External Providers.

The delivery of municipal services by external providers is strictly regulated. Not only do the general constitutional requirements for procurement apply, but other, more specific rules, also govern these relationships. The Municipal Systems Act, read with the Municipal Finance Management Act, for example, says that to make use of an external provider for the delivery of a municipal service, a municipality must use competitive bidding as a procurement method, comply with a process of community consultation and ensure that the entire process is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.

Undermining Local Planning.

Elsana Quarry, a mining company, was granted mining rights on a farm situated within the jurisdiction of the Swartland Municipality. The municipality requested the Court to prohibit Elsana from conducting the mining activities because the farm had not been rezoned by the municipality in terms of its zoning scheme. The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA) requires those who obtain mining rights to comply with any ‘relevant law’. The Swartland Municipality argued that this meant that Elsana should have applied for rezoning under both the Western Cape Land Use Planning Ordinance 15 of 1985 (LUPO) and the municipality’s zoning scheme.

Woman and Local Government: Steps Towards Greater Inclusivity.

While some progress has been made towards facilitating women’s involvement in government structures and programme implementation, there is still a long way to go before the goal of gender equality is achieved. Research conducted by Alison Todes, Pearl Sithole and Amanda Williamson investigated the extent to which women’s issues have been incorporated at local government level, and concluded that municipalities tend to lag behind national policy and guidelines in giving priority to the goal of gender equality. This article summarises their findings and suggests future directions.

From the Courts: Setting Tarrifs, The Duty to Consult.

The introduction of new rates tariffs by a municipality is rarely ever greeted without public debate – or, in some instances, even conflict. In this case, the Stellenbosch Ratepayers’ Association applied for the invalidation of a rate tariff which had been introduced by the municipality.

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