AfriForum launches Centre for Local Government ‘to promote accountability and regeneration’

Civil rights organisation, AfriForum has launched a Centre for Local Government, coinciding with the release of a damning audit of municipalities in North West.

The recently released non-financial census of municipalities by Stats SA, paints a bleak picture of the state of municipalities in North West. Only 8.2% of consumers benefit from free basic water, and just 8.8% consumer units receive free basic sewerage and sanitation from municipalities.

The organisation says the North West Province is in a municipal crisis as it is unable to maintain sound financial management and provide basic services such as water provision and refuse management at landfill sites.

AfriForum says although some municipalities remain under provincial administration, owing to their financial woes and inability to deliver services, it has not resulted in significant improvements.

“The inability of the province to reverse the trend on negative outcomes over the years points to a culture that is not proactive in dealing with weakness in the control and environments as evidenced by nine municipalities receiving disclaimed audit opinions and eight receiving qualified audit opinions … implicit in much of the available data is the fact that corruption is rampant and this, inevitably, has a large bearing on service delivery,” says strategic advisor at AfriForum Dr. Eugene Brink.

Dr. Brink says the newly launched Centre for Local Government is set to promote accountability and regeneration in municipalities.

“We will be conducting physical visits to municipalities and doing primary, empirical research to gather the best data. Nevertheless, we call upon government to release info on water again or could we ask, is there a reason why this information is not being released to the public for nearly a decade? This is why we are launching this centre to conduct research on municipal governance and conditions, be a credible watchdog and source of information and find new ways to salvage service delivery in municipalities.”  

The provision of water and sanitation services by the ratepayers association in the Kosterbased Kgetleng Rivier Local Municipality has become a yardstick for dissatisfied communities to take matters into their own hands.  

Head of community development at Afriforum Johan Kruger says, “I think recently we have seen the developments in Koster or the Kgetleng Rivier Municipality which is in many respects a beacon of light that has come about through litigation, but we are currently in a space where we are, along with the concerned citizens of Kgetleng Rivier, through our own NPO managing water and sewage works there at this stage.”

Some municipalities in the North West have been struggling to deliver services to residents: [embedded content]

A local government expert at the North West University, Professor Rhulani Hanyane says initiatives such as AfriForum’s local government centre will give communities more power to address service delivery challenges in failing municipalities themselves.

“So, we’ve got to ask ourselves how many municipalities are currently under administration in the province, let alone provincial departments. And this is the kind of picture that I suspect, there is a response towards, to then say we can’t wait for elections; it’s a response to poor management of municipalities; it’s a response to declining quality of service delivery in other instances, lack of service delivery. And then, of course, issues of corruption where councilors and public officials are seriously implicated.”

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