Assessing the implementation prospects of the Waste Act within the Msunduzi Municipality through the Theory U.
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The Msunduzi Municipality is confronted with a waste management crisis. It struggles to provide existing refuse collection services and is unable to extend refuse collection services to more than 40% of households in the municipality, illegal dumping and littering continue unabated, waste volumes continue to grow in the absence of waste minimisation programmes and the only landfill site within the municipality is poorly managed and has less than seven years of airspace remaining. In the midst of this crisis, the new National Waste Act has been approved for implementation requiring all municipalities in South Africa to provide universal access to refuse collection services, to comply with national norms and standards for waste disposal and to implement new services that provide opportunities for recycling and the treatment of waste. The Waste Act requires the Msunduzi Municipality to transform its waste management system from a poorly run collection and disposal operation to an ecologically sustainable system where waste generation is prevented, materials are recycled and organic waste is treated in order to prevent the release of greenhouse gases. This research project sought to develop a deeper understanding of the implementation obligations confronting the Msunduzi Municipality as a result of the Waste Act and explored the prospects for implementation success and failure. The conceptual framework of the Theory U was used to provide insights into how transformational change of the Msunduzi waste management system can be undertaken. A qualitative research methodology was used in order to understand implementation issues from the perspectives of all the stakeholders within the Msunduzi waste management system. The main research tool used was a semi - structured interview conducted with individual stakeholders from government, NGO's, technical experts, labour and the organised business sector. A documentary analysis of relevant literature and direct observation of the research participants complemented the interview data. The research results indicate that leaders of the administrative, political and labour components of the waste management sector within the Msunduzi Municipality and the organised business sector within the city of Pietermaritzburg are collectively attending to waste management issues from an absencing cycle. Given that these key institutions are unable to think and act to improve the entire waste management system, the quality and quantity of waste management services being delivered will steadily decline whilst pollution levels will increase; and the system is at risk of eventual collapse. Key stakeholders from within the Msunduzi Municipality are unlikely, in the current context, to either initiate or participate in the activities of a diverse group of core players who could be brought together through common intention to transform the waste management system. The NGO sector, the regulatory authorities, the technical experts and the organised waste management business sector on the other hand are willing to come together to transform the Msunduzi waste management system. Given that the waste management sector within the Msunduzi Municipality operates within an absencing cycle and some of the other core players in the system are operating from a presencing cycle, the need for transformational change is both urgent and possible. The process is likely to be protracted, conflict ridden and complex. If the core players within the system who share a common transformational intention are able to collectively sense the system, learn from the future to develop a common vision and create prototypes to embody new practices, they can, however, gradually create forces within the system that can unlock opportunities for profound change to occur. Key Words: Waste Management, Policy Implementation, Theory U, Local Government.