n Journal of Public Administration - Nature and extent of local governance in South Africa

Volume 42, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



Internationally, governance has emerged as a focal point in the discipline and practice of public administration and its nature, extent and characteristics have changed the environment within which public administration functions. Public administration as an integrating paradigm has to achieve, maintain, enhance and sustain the collective promotion of the spiritual and material welfare of society. In South Africa (SA), addressing the need to bring about more effective and efficient public service delivery by government and its executive public sector institutions, has come a long way from the period when there were over 1100 racially segregated municipalities. From more than 800 municipalities after 1996, they were merged to the current 283 municipalities which now cover every inch of the country, and are focused on expanding local economies in maintaining the provision of existing basic municipal services as well as extending it to areas of its responsibility that were previously neglected. Since 2001, far-reaching change has taken place in most of South Africa's municipalities and a firm legislative foundation has been established for improved public service delivery in the future. This should not encourage complacency because many changes remain unsolved and new issues continually present themselves (South African Cities Network 2006:6-2). To ensure that the effective and efficient delivery of public services on especially the local government sphere of SA is improved, the government will have to take cognisance of the most urgent societal needs and challenges and prioritise and address them in a more co-ordinated, pro-active and macro goa-lorientated manner. This will enable national government to, among other pressing objectives, clean up the society and develop the country's infrastructure such that its citizens can as a whole bring about an improvement of local governance. This article first provides a brief exposition of the nature and meaning of governance, highlight the legislative background of governance on the local government sphere in SA and discuss the typical nature and extent of the delivery of the most strategic basic public services in its municipal areas. Suggestions will also be made of logical steps which a municipality can follow to address the various needs of its communities in a more effective and efficient manner. Some pressing South African realities, dynamics and challenges regarding the public services will be identified and some recommendations on how some of the challenges should be addressed, will be made.

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