Under the South African system of representative democracy, the local sphere of government has evolved to consist of a total of 284 municipalities who have the right to govern their own communities, subject to national and provincial legislation. The KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs is responsible for performing oversight and support to its 61 municipalities.
The goals of the local government system are to: provide democratic and accountable government for local communities; ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner; promote social and economic development; promote a safe and healthy living environment; and encourage the involvement of communities and community organisations in the matters of local government.
Local government in KwaZulu-Natal is organised into the eThekwini Metropolitan Council, and ten district municipalities, namely: Amajuba; iLembe; Sisonke; Ugu; uMgungundlovu; uMkhanyakude; uMzinyathi; uThukela; uThungulu and Zululand. Each district is further divided into a varying number of local municipalities. The municipalities of KwaZulu-Natal are recognised as the best governed in the country.
Municipal elections are held every five years to elect the members of the district, metropolitan and local municipal councils, who, in turn, elect the mayors of the municipalities to office. The South African municipal elections for all districts and local municipalities in the nine provinces were held in May 2011.
The primary responsibility of municipalities is the provision of effective and efficient infrastructure and services. Through providing reliable municipal services an appealingly built natural environment is created that motivates local residents to participate in their own development. However, while urban areas in the province have good infrastructure and service delivery, past inequalities have left a legacy of problems, particularly in rural areas with low population densities.
According to 2012/13 Budget Policy Speech by the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal, Nomusa Dube, a large amount of capital injection is required in terms of bulk infrastructure to correct backlogs in service delivery. The service delivery statistics of the province report that as at 31 March 2012:
Approximately 83.47% of households have access to potable water
80.36% of households have a basic sanitation facility
76.69 % of households have access to electricity.
While progress is being made, the reality remains that delivery of services to every household is only achievable beyond 2020 at the current funding rate.
Infrastructure development- roads, rail and ports - is currently a primary focus in South Africa, with massive projects being planned by the national government. This effect will be especially relevant to municipalities wherein the projects are based and an aim of the projects is to stimulate the economies of the region. In the State of the Nation Address 2012 President Zuma stressed that "The massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail-lines, dams and roads. It must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation." Each municipality affected will therefore be supported in project implementation by provincial and national government.
Integrated Development Plans
Government policy requires municipalities to play a developmental role. However, all development in municipalities must be in accordance to national and provincial plans, which include the:
National Development Plan,
New Growth Path
Provincial Growth & Development Strategy
Provincial Growth & Development Plan
In order to plan for interventions to address planning needs, local municipalities in South Africa use "integrated development planning", as a strategic method to plan and deliver future development in their areas. An Integrated Development Plan (IDP) gives a general framework for development. The plans aims to co-ordinate the work of local and other spheres of government in a coherent manner by working together with local citizens, communities and businesses, in order to improve the quality of life for all the people living in an area.
Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency
The establishment of MISA (Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency) to enhance municipal capacity has been welcomed. This agency's primary task is to drive implementation of programmes as part of a support plan in targeted municipalities.
Local Economic Development
Local Economic Development (LED) has been identified as one of the key options that compel local areas to become more pro-active in empowering their communities.
The overall aim is to establish the 'locality' as a vibrant, sustainable economic entity. By stimulating the local economy, increased revenue from taxes will be obtained, which in turn will provide resources for social services.
A focus on infrastructure development will also contribute to the sustainability of municipalities in terms of revenue and job creation, as well as improved quality of life for all citizens and attract investor confidence. In addition labour-intensive
methods can be used more to provide jobs, and procurement systems should create opportunities for broad-based black economic empowerment.
The fundamental challenge of all the municipalities is how to identify additional sources of revenue. For many the answer lies in engaging with the private sector. Public private partnerships (PPP) between a maintenance-focused, efficient municipality and a booming, confident private sector will deliver the best of both worlds.
MEC Nomusa Dube said,"In a highly-competitive global economic environment that we live in today, municipalities should be more that just purveyors of social services such as water and electricity. They should be engines of economic growth."