Reflections on the design of post-apartheid system of (urban) local government

Edgar Pieterse, Mirjam van Donk
2006

Van Donk, M. and Pieterse, E. (2006). Reflections on the design of a post-apartheid system of (urban) local government. In U. Pillay, R. Tomlison and J. du Toit (eds). Democracy and Delivery. Urban Policy in South Africa (pp. 107-134). Cape Town: HSRC Press.  Available for download from here.

The purpose of this chapter is to identify the key driving forces that have brought about the current system of urban local government in South Africa. Whereas our particular interest is to review what contribution research has played in the policy process, we are acutely aware of the difficulty in ascertaining its impact with some certainty. During the final days of apartheid and the first years of democracy in South Africa, ideological considerations and political dynamics – much of it obscure even to well-informed outsiders – tended to shape policy in more significant ways than rigorous assessments or empirical studies. Because many of these (party-) political dynamics and processes have not been documented or analysed, it is difficult to ascribe particular policy inclusions (or exclusions) to research.

In this chapter, that distinguish between three phases since the late 1980s until 2004, summarising the key ideas and processes that have influenced local government policy during these various phases. Because much of this is 'unwritten history', the information is drawn from interviews with key informants. It, finally, focuses on three critical policy issues that have come to signify some key challenges and conceptual weaknesses associated with urban local government in the post-2000 period: powers and functions, municipal viability, and operationalising the Integrated Development Plan (IDP).

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