Volume 13, Issue 1, April 2011.

Local Elections 2011: The Lay Of The BattleGround.

The local elections on 18 May 2011 will be among the most important and interesting elections in South Africa since 1994, as the ANC and the DA join battle for control of the country’s municipalities. Enjoying massive support from the electorate, the ANC has been consistently formidable at election time, but recently has been losing some ground in by elections. Across the country, the party also faces growing pressure from communities demanding better service delivery and accountable government. The growing trend in recent years for public protests to turn violent is worrying.

Party Manifestos For The Third Local Government Elections 18 May 2011.

With the local government elections set for 18 May, political parties are preparing their party policies and manifestos in a bid to woo voters. A survey of the party manifestos and statements ahead of the elections reveals five main themes: local economic development; improving access to municipal service delivery; community safety; community participation and involvement; and curbing corruption and strengthening local governance.

Electing The Last District Councils?

The question waiting to be answered is whether this will be the last election that features districts as a political institution. Of the three local government structures – metropolitan, local and district municipality – only district municipalities’ value in promoting developmental local government is questioned. Many critics suggest that districts do indeed serve a purpose. Others contend strongly that they should be disestablished.

Professional Administration Crucial For Service Delivery.

Municipalities cannot deliver on their developmental mandate without suitably qualified and professional staff. However, evidence shows that the lack of good governance of staff matters in many municipalities results in service delivery failures. Local government needs to professionalise and be professionalised – and there are three aspects to this which this article discusses.

Community Participation and Ward Committees

While ward committees are known to communities, they continue to attract fierce criticism. Many communities are disillusioned and feel that participation in ward committees does very little to express their voice. In many instances, they rather choose public protests or the withholding of rates and taxes as mechanisms to get their needs on the municipal agenda. The Constitutional Court has on several occasions evaluated municipalities’ efforts to facilitate community participation in respect of key decisions. This indicates that the courts are taking community participation seriously.

A Single Election For All Three Spheres Would Be A Bad Idea.

The ANC is debating whether to introduce a single election cycle for all three spheres of government. If this idea goes ahead, it means that in 2014 voters will elect representatives for national, provincial and local governments on the same day. The main arguments for this move are that a single election would reduce the costs of elections, facilitate the deployment of senior politicians to municipalities (which is necessary to boost municipal performance), and improve the alignment of planning and budgeting across the three spheres. None of these arguments has merit. On the contrary, this reform would disrupt municipal governance and service delivery. More importantly, it would reduce local elections to the status of mini-national elections, spelling the end of any prospect of real local democracy in South Africa.

© 2016 Dullah Omar Institute
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