Addressing citizen distrust

Local government is one of the few areas in which the party recognises that citizens want less politics and more efficiency and accountability.

It is one of the few areas in which they agree with the national planning commission, which has suggested that a number of institutions be depoliticised.

The discussion document says “the level of trust in local government has declined sharply since 2004. Participatory government has lost its meaning and content and in its place has risen communities who feel alienated and disconnected from decision-making processes and disempowered in influencing the affairs of the municipality”.

The party says the model of community participation is not working because, among other reasons, it is dominated by the ANC-led alliance instead of by ratepayers, youth and women’s organisations as well as business, sports and cultural organisations. It calls for the broad community and not just political activists to be mobilised.

Strengthening of municipality powers
Municipalities, says the ANC, could benefit from the strengthening of the separation of powers between the executive and city councils so that councils can hold mayoral committees to account.

This distinction is often lost in most municipalities countrywide.

The ANC appears to be concerned about the Municipal Demarcation Board, which has been accused by some members of drawing up boundaries that put the party at a disadvantage. It has urged the ­government to review demarcations and the role, functions, scope and composition of the board and the criteria it uses to decide ward and municipal boundaries.

One of the strong observations in the document is that “the one-size-fits-all approach to improving local government has not worked”.

It says the integrated development plans, which were meant to play a key role in facilitating local development, have not worked. The document therefore argues for differentiated capacity interventions and differentiation in regulations in distinct municipalities.

Another suggestion is to abolish generalised district municipalities, retaining them only in cases where local municipalities are not strong enough to function independently.

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane is the Mail & Guardian's politics editor. He sometimes worries that he is a sports fanatic, but is in fact just crazy about Orlando Pirates. While he used to love reading only fiction, he is now gradually starting to enjoy political biographies. He was a big fan of Barack Obama, but now accepts that even he is only mortal. Read more from Rapule Tabane