Mirjam van Donk
The White Paper on Local Government (1998) provided the vision for a democratic system of local government. It locates the mandate for developmental local government in the constitutional provisions to promote, safeguard and protect equality. It celebrates the fact that local government is the sphere of government closest to the people, with the potential to transform the lives of local residents, contribute to their empowerment and bring about equitable development. This paper seeks to provide an overview of how local government has responded to gender, youth development, children's rights, the rights of the elderly, disability and HIV/AIDS in its efforts to promote inclusive local governance and development.
It argues that local government has not made as much progress in realising the rights of women, children, youth, the elderly, persons with disability and people living with or directly affected by HIV/AIDS as one would have hoped. There are many factors that may have contributed to this, including ongoing institutional reform, capacity and financial challenges, the overwhelming scale of service needs, and weak social mobilisation on these issues. In addition, the progressive ideals of the White Paper have not (yet) been sufficiently translated into clear programmes and assigned responsibilities that can be implemented by municipalities of varying sizes, with clear indicators for monitoring progress and enforcement.