Whither provinces: Does provincial government matter to local government and participatory local democracy?

On 15 March 2012, Isandla Institute and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) hosted a Roundtable dialogue titled 'Whither provinces: Does provincial government matter to local government and participatory local democracy?'

In the recent past, there have been a number of discussions about the future of South Africa's provincial governments. These have largely emanated from within the structures of the African National Congress (ANC) and that of its Alliance partners. These discussions have centred on various issues but largely raise political, economic, and structural and administration (efficiency) questions. Currently, there is also an ongoing discussion in the public discourse about the crisis in some provincial departments pronounced even more by the National Treasury's recent use of Section 100 of the Constitution to intervene in a number of provinces: Limpopo, Gauteng and Free State provinces (albeit in different formats). However, less is said about the impact of these on local government and governance.

The Roundtable was well attended by key stakeholders, including political parties and state officials, who engaged in vibrant discussions about a range broad issues, including:

  • The role provincial government plays in the current governance system and the arguments provided to retain/merge/scrap the current system
  • The nature of problems with provincial government as a system and/or specific provincial administrations
  • From the perspective of local government and local democracy, what are the benefits/drawbacks if provincial government in South Africa is retained, merged or scrapped?
  • What are the implications for the powers and functions of local government and for overall municipal functioning? (What does it mean for the two-tier system of local government?)
  • What are the likely implications for regional political structures and how could this affect the functioning of municipalities and local political structures?

As a result of these discussions the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN) has formulated a joint position on these issues that can be found here.

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