Making Local Government work

Local government’s mandate is clearly set out in s. 152 of the Constitution. Local government has an obligation to consult with communities and for community participation to be part of the decision-making processes. Councillors are elected to represent and serve the community in realising people’s Constitutional rights to basic services.

Too often communities feel like they are on the outside looking in. They feel that their opinions and needs are ignored. Just because there are laws and regulations for community involvement and participation, does not mean they are always followed. The reality is that government sometimes ignores legitimate concerns, fails to keep its promises or provide access to basic services.

In order for our Constitutional rights to basic services to be fulfilled we need a responsive and accountable local government. We need local government that makes good decisions that will benefit communities as a whole. We need local government that addresses the right priorities, that ensures social cohesion and stability, and that involves us in decisions. To create this kind of local government it is important that you take action. Demand to participate in consultations and decision-making processes and hold your municipality to account!

Report consistent failure to the provincial or national government

If your efforts to hold the municipality to account for the use of public resources are unsuccessful and you can show the municipality is unable to provide basic services and meet its financial commitments, you should report incidents to the provincial department responsible for local government. If the provincial government finds that the municipality cannot fulfil its obligations it can impose a recovery plan.

This involves:

  • assessing the seriousness of the problem and the municipality’s financial position
  • identifying strategies to deal with financial management weaknesses identifying resources necessary to implement these strategies and where these resources should come from
  • setting out timeframes for the implementation of the recovery plan.

If the municipality refuses to accept the plan, or if it cannot implement the plan, the provincial government can dissolve the municipal council and place the municipality under administration until new elections can be held (s. 139(4)(5) of the Constitution; s. 136-149 of the Municipal Finance Management (MFMA) ). If this fails to bring about necessary improvements, the national government can also intervene and administer the municipality until new elections are held (s. 150 of the MFMA)