Factional Politics Set Local Governments Back


With alarming regularity, South Africans hear news of power struggles within political parties and local governments.  These factional politics could be part of the service delivery problem South Africa faces.

In 2009 the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) conducted assessments which confirmed that political party factionalism contributes greatly to the decay of a functioning municipal government. More recently, in 2011, the National Treasury’s Local Government Budgets and Expenditure Review claimed that in some failing municipalities, it was not the capacity to perform that was lacking, but rather it was the local political leadership that had failed.

These are just two signs that elected officials are part of the widespread service delivery problem of the country. What about others?

  • In KwaZulu-Natal, the uMgungundlovu and Msunduzi municipalities saw the dissolution of executive committees due to struggles for mayoral nominations.
  • In Gauteng, the Midvaal municipality has faced reports of conflict of interest.
  • Murders in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the North West province have been linked to political parties’ power struggles in local government.

South Africa has rules in place to guide municipal administration, namely the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the White Paper on Local Government, the Municipal Structures Act and the Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Act; however many admit that the extent to which legislation can effect political culture and behaviour is limited.

According to Pamela Masiko-Kambala, a local government policy researcher at the Isandla Institute, it is up to the political parties themselves to be responsible for managing the contestation which may arise within the parties and acting more professionally to benefit state institutions and citizens.

With the rise in service delivery protests throughout the country, it is clear that South African citizens are standing up and fighting for their role in the governance of their local municipalities. Elected officials now need to come to the party and take on the responsibility of serving the electorate without letting their political agendas stand in the way.

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