Conference Examines African and South African Challenges in Local Governance
Local government specialist Professor Purshottama Reddy of UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance and the doyen of Public Administration in South Africa, Professor Chris Thornhill, highlighted some of the key challenges facing local government at the sixth annual Conference of the School of Public Administration and Management (SPMA) hosted by the University of Pretoria.
The Conference was attended by prominent government role players, academics, local and international scholars and practitioners in Public Administration.
Thornhill’s paper, “Sustainable Service Delivery in Democratic Local Government: Critical African Challenges and Prospects”, provided an overview of local government in selected countries in Africa and then South Africa.
‘It is quite clear that there is considerable overlap in the local governance challenges currently being experienced on the Continent and South Africa,’ said Thornhill. ‘These issues need to be thoroughly interrogated and reflected on in the South African context as it evolves as a young democracy and give substance to the notion of a developmental state. The African experience in local government has dictated that cognisance has to be taken of some of the lessons, both good and bad, in the quest for a more equitable, just and developmental society.’
Reddy highlighted the prerequisites for democracy and pointed out that the notion of good governance was closely linked to democracy and generally followed on from this process.
‘A recurring theme in both processes - democracy and good governance - is the rule of law, participation, accountability and transparency in decision making. In all fairness to the Government, they have introduced polices and legislation to address the basic needs of the citizenry, although there are considerable challenges in this regard,’ said Reddy.
Other challenges highlighted by Reddy included the financial viability of municipalities/poor financial management; local economic development not being taken seriously; lack of capacity or skills and the politicisation of senior appointments.
- Thandiwe Jumo