Public participation and service delivery with particular reference to iLembe District Municipality.
Zondi, Sakhile Isaac.
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The adoption of effective and efficient service delivery systems by South African municipalities remain the only means through which the basic social and economic needs of local communities can be addressed. Municipalities are the primary vehicles for the delivery of basic services as they are mandated by section 152 of the Constitution of South Africa (1996) to ensure the provision of services in a sustainable manner; provide democratic and accountable government for all communities; promote social and economic development; and most importantly encourage public participation on matters of local governance. The study sought to assess the quality of service delivery by using iLembe District Municipality – one of the ten district councils in KwaZulu-Natal as a local case study. It argues that basic municipal service delivery is imperative for the realisation of human rights in South Africa as it has been constitutionalised, and more importantly it enhances the quality of life of the local populace. Using the mixed method approach, this study explored more broadly the extent to which local government restructuring and transformation has impacted on iLembe District Municipality in executing the developmental mandate of municipalities as enshrined in Chapter 3 of the Constitution. This was particularly important in meeting one of the objectives of the study which sought to understand the strides, rationale, significance and relevance of the South African local government restructuring and transformation process to the majority of previously disadvantaged communities. This was done through the synthesis of various public administration theories on issues of service delivery and public participation. Amongst these theories are the Batho Pele principles which are regarded as a significant milestone in terms of government’s commitment to reversing the tide of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. The study also argues that despite the current complexities in service delivery, which is evident with the recent wave of service delivery protests in most local authorities in South Africa, municipalities should as a matter of urgency align their developmental plans with the new legislation of local government to make informed and considered decisions in the broader context of good local governance and enhanced service delivery. The extensive empirical survey of the study through questionnaires and interviews has indicated that while the iLembe District Municipality has achieved its developmental mandate, particularly in the delivery of services such as water, sanitation and electricity, there is still a backlog with regard to housing provision and the entrenchment of comprehensive public participation strategies. Participatory structures such as councillors, ward committees and traditional leaders need to revise their systems of networking with citizenry in the quest for enhanced and inclusive local democracy. In addition, research findings presented in the study shows a huge disjuncture between the alignment of municipal strategic planning and the real issues affecting local communities. For example, the rationale of public participation in IDP processes has not yet been explored in the wider context of participatory local democracy. With regard to municipal management, there is a need for a total transformative agenda and a strong political leadership to be guided by a clear coherent vision in enabling municipal functionaries to make informed policy decisions. This will ultimately contribute to the efficient and effective service delivery systems and will ensure the realisation of the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP) by 2030. In the concluding remarks, the study notes that despite numerous endeavours to improve municipal service delivery through various initiatives such as the Local Government Turn-Around Strategy, Project Consolidate, and Operation Clean Audit and the Five-Year Strategic Plan for Local Government, the lack of, or mediocre service delivery continues to plague the majority of communities in iLembe District Municipality. This has contributed to the unprecedented wave of service delivery protests in the District in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The study therefore recommends that the municipality should promote strong citizenship and a participatory governance culture within the District. For example, councillors, ward committees, traditional leaders and other leadership structures within the district municipality should play a constructive role in enhancing community development through comprehensive public participation systems. Furthermore, the Provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (GoGTA) should play a strong oversight role in monitoring and evaluating the strategic goals for municipalities, thus ensuring that they are in line with the aspirations of local communities. The study also recommends an enhanced level of expertise for local government functionaries in addressing service delivery and public participation challenges, as the provision of quality municipal services has been singled out as the key element for successful local governance in the District Municipality. Finally, the study proposed a normative model which is aimed at fostering best practices in iLembe District Municipality for the enhancement of efficient and effective service delivery and public participation strategies. It is hoped that the findings of this study would contribute to the knowledge base in local governance in terms of understanding the challenges of local government service delivery and public participation strategies more specifically in relation to iLembe District Municipality and more broadly to local government in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
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