Decentralisation and municipalities in South Africa : an analysis of the mandate to deliver basic services.
This thesis investigates the challenges facing local government in South Africa by developing a means of exploring to what extent the problems of providing basic services currently experienced by municipalities are influenced by the political, administrative and financial configuration of the decentralized system of governance. It is argued here that the design of the intergovernmental governance system does not promote the constitutional objectives of decentralisation. The current system of governance does not empower local government to become more distinctive and autonomous. The problem in many cases is not what to decentralize or whether a basic service should be provided by national, provincial or local government, but rather how to align shared rule or concurrency of the particular service with the various levels of government. One of the key questions posed in this thesis is to what extent the system of decentralized governance in South Africa enables or hinders municipalities. abilities to provide basic services in an autonomous and sustainable manner. It focuses particularly on their authority to make and implement autonomous political, administrative and financial decisions pertaining to the provision of basic services. While this study cannot conclusively report on the impact of decentralisation on basic service delivery in South Africa, it does identify some of the systemic and structural aspects that impact on the manner or way in which local municipalities provide basic services. It raises concerns that the basic service delivery obligations of local municipalities are strenuous and financially challenging, and will continue to be as long as local municipalities rely on or are controlled by other spheres of government in meeting their constitutional mandate, especially with regard to the intergovernmental transfers of fiscal resources.