A new research study, conducted by the School for Public Leadership (SPL) at Stellenbosch University, answers this question.
The study was commissioned by the Department of Local Government in the Western Cape and supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Bavarian State Chancellery.
The lead author, Prof Tania Ajam, and her team looked at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on municipal fiscal sustainability in the Western Cape (WC). However, many of the findings and recommendations also apply to the municipalities in other provinces.
The research revealed that, although Western Cape municipalities dealt with the consequences better than most municipalities in other provinces, they need to be prepared for the long-term operational and financial consequences of the pandemic that is far from over. In fact, it seems, the pandemic has just accelerated many of the structural problems existing in South African municipalities.
The recent 2021 Local Government elections have highlighted once more the urgent need to reform and capacitate municipal administrations and strengthen good governance. An increasing number of South African municipalities keep failing in their constitutional mandate of providing basic services to the communities, and many people have lost confidence in local politics and democratic structures.
The many practical recommendations included in the study, on how to release the regulatory burden on municipalities and make them financially viable, can therefore go a long way.
They were also discussed during a joint online seminar series of the Dullah Omar Institute (UWC), the SPL and the HSF that took place in November and December 2021, and was echoed in the media (News24 and Daily Maverick).
Find the recordings of the seminars, the full research report and the corresponding fact sheets below: