Municipal restructuring for impact

Sue Bannister and Dr Michael Sutcliffe of City Insights. (Supplied)

Sue Bannister and Dr Michael Sutcliffe of City Insights. (Supplied)

As the President indicated in his State of the Nation address, the National Development Plan will guide development, institutional restructuring and a number of other areas of governance over the next 15 or more years. 

In this context, not only will municipal governance need to continually be restructured, South Africa will need to ensure the apartheid space economy is reconfigured to provide opportunities for growth and development. 

We need to knit together the productive base of our economy, the cities, whether it is Winterveld and Tshwane, Soweto and Johannesburg, Khayalitsha and Cape Town and so on. 

People have been moving to the cities in huge numbers. The three metropolitan areas in Gauteng have grown 35% in the past 10 years, Cape Town 20% and Durban by about 10%. 

The question is — where do you put all those people, and can you ensure they are placed in areas that are affordable and don’t force them to spend hours in transport queues and on public transport each and every day? 

In order to accomplish this, we will need to rejig the city to cope with the influx and house people effectively and efficiently.

Certainly the improvement of public transport across cities will allow people to get across the cities, efficiently and effectively, to and from work or schools.  

In addition, municipal infrastructure must be built, where needed and enhanced where it exists. The infrastructure needed to facilitate economic growth is not as good as it should be. 

Metros should be spending at least 10% of their budgets on maintaining the infrastructure they have, but few are doing this. While government has done a great job of improving basic infrastructure such as water, electricity and sanitation, the infrastructure required for economic growth is often lacking, from well-placed logistics environments to industrial land and quality services.

Municipal restructuring is about making municipalities more efficient and effective so that they can develop economically. This involves developing infrastructure so that it is predictable, for example reliable electricity supply, adequate housing to prevent people living in squalor. These are the hard issues we have to deal with. 

As part of the restructuring, the past twenty years have seen more delivery powers being devolved to a local government level. 

For example, where transport, housing and other infrastructure is meant to be handled at provincial and national levels, according to the Constitution, these things are now increasingly being managed and delivered far more effectively by the metros. 

We’re finding that the functions of local government are being strengthened to become more delivery oriented, and, as the president indicated, plans are underway to increase their capacity in terms of the technical, engineering, planning, and architectural skills needed to render them more economically viable and effective.

Dr Michael Sutcliffe and Sue Bannister are directors at City Insights.

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