An analysis of transformation initiatives to promote development: a case study of uMhlathuze Local Municipality.
Mhlongo, Bongani Mzwakhe.
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With the advent of democracy in 1994, the South African government made a commitment to deliver services to all citizens irrespective of race. To achieve this objective, service delivery was decentralized to local government. However, the wave of service delivery protests in South Africa raises questions around the successful implementation of this strategy. The journey to transform the South African local government system has not been an easy one. While the vision set out in the Constitution (1996) is clear, implementation is confronted by significant challenges. Scholars present conflicting results on decentralization. Some contend that decentralization resulted in substantial achievements in some regions and countries, but partial developmens with less positive impacts in others. The study sought to investigate the effects and impact of decentralization on governance, closely examining community participating in budgetary and policy-making activities. It further sought to establish if there is any correlation between audit outcomes and service delivery using the uMhlathuze Local Municipality as a case study. Finally, the study sought to establish factors that drive/impede the implementation of transformation initiatives. To realize the objectives of the study, the researcher utilized decentralization model as a lens to investigate whether governance practices are effective in improving service delivery through responsive, accountable, and efficient democratic participatory local government. For purposes of this study, the researcher adopted a quantitative research approach because of its objectivity and its ability to draw inferences. The researcher utilised purposive and convenience sampling. Convenience sampling was utilized to identify key informants. The results are presented using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 25. The SPSS analysis made it possible to formulate propositions. The study found that participatory democracy is present within the uMhlathuze Local Municipality but has not spread across all the areas within the municipality’s jurisdiction. Most of the study participants were of the view that the Municipality consults through ward councillors and/or headmen (izinduna), suggesting that ward committees are active. However, some areas still lack adequate services, especially peri-urban and rural areas. Party-political conflict is said to be the cause for concern. The study participants felt strongly that audit outcomes have a positive correlation with the service delivery and the quality thereof. In the last five financial year periods, the uMhlathuze Local Municipality has received clean audit opinions consecutively. At the same period, the municipality is reported to have achieved great strides in service delivery. These findings raise some doubt of the authenticity of the claims that local government is over-legislated, thus resulting in municipalities spending more time complying with the law than delivering services. It is however, concluded that participatory democracy in the local government is witnessed mostly during the run-up to elections, during budget and IDP processes. Endemic corruption, inadequate community participation, and undue political interference in local government are some of the reasons for the failure to implement good governance through decentralization.