Academic journal article Journal of Social Development in Africa

Developmental Local Governance and Service Delivery in South Africa: Progress, Achievements and Challenges

Academic journal article Journal of Social Development in Africa

Developmental Local Governance and Service Delivery in South Africa: Progress, Achievements and Challenges

Article excerpt


With the advent of a political democratic dispensation in 1994, the South African Government faced a host of daunting developmental challenges inherited from the apartheid regime. Local government, which constitutes the third sphere of governance in South Africa, has been mandated by the Constitution to address Apartheid era-induced inequalities and facilitate local socioeconomic development amongst the previously disadvantaged black majority. This paper reviews the progress, achievements and challenges faced by the South African regime in its attempt to facilitate access to basic social services and to reduce poverty among the previously disadvantaged majority. It outlines the socioeconomic profile and local governance legislative policy frameworks, and explains the institutional arrangements established to facilitate and anchor effective service delivery, as well as to integrate the "voice " of local communities. The paper also considers the issue of basic social service delivery and analyses reasons for the widespread municipal service delivery protests. The paper makes the conclusion that the recurrent widespread, violent and increasingly xenophobic municipal service delivery protests, are indicative of the fact that, despite the progress made in the past seventeen years in terms of establishing the policy framework and institutional structures to effectively facilitate socioeconomic development and address bottlenecks to accessing basic social services and fighting poverty, enormous challenges still remain at local governance level.


Local governance, service delivery, developmental, South Africa, protests, poverty


Following the demise of apartheid and the transition to a democratic dispensation in April 1994, the then new South African government inherited a well-developed economy characterised, however, by sharp socioeconomic inequalities, which were particularly severe in the Bantustan homelands inhabited by the maj ority of blacks. During the apartheid era, development initiatives largely concentrated on high-income white urban enclaves, thereby neglecting the black majority. This duality was further complicated by the parallel interracial inequality, with the best socioeconomic facilities reserved for whites while poor facilities were reserved for the black segment of the population. The racial segregation in the economic, education, and health and social welfare sectors, 'left deep scars' of inequality and poverty: life among the majority of the population - the black section - was characterised by abject poverty and minimal access to basic social and economic services (Chikulo, 2003, 2004:130).

The advent of the new democratic dispensation in 1994 ushered in the requisite political transformation and institutional reforms that were critical for prioritising delivery of basic services to the previously excluded majority and also tackling the inherited socioeconomic challenges. This change also enabled South Africa to address poverty and inequality and to restore the dignity of all its citizens (StatSA, 2010b: 16). The transformation also enabled the government to remove the racial basis of local government with a view to making it a vehicle for the integration of society and providing a platform for more equitable provision of municipal services. In an effort to reduce socioeconomic imbalances and to meet the expectations of the black segment of the population, the government pledged rapid socioeconomic development and placed poverty alleviation and addressing of inequality at the centre of its development agenda.

Poverty alleviation was identified as one of the greatest challenges facing the government. The policy framework for poverty alleviation was predicated on, among others, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP, 1994), the Constitution (1996), the Growth and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR) (1996) and the Accelerated and Shared Growth (The Presidency, 2006), which documents emphasised the need for direct intervention in order to reduce historical inequalities and facilitate sustainable growth. …

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