What can I expect from my Municipality?

In this podcast we explain the powers, functions and focus areas of municipalities. The podcasts sets out what services and service standards we can expect from municipalities and what limits their ability to deliver services. It is part of the Civics Academy Local Government Series in which we explore how local government functions and how we, as responsive citizens, can engage it. This podcast is also available in Afrikaans and IsiXhosa. 

Section 152 of the Constitution sets out the five focus areas of Municipalities:

1. Provide democratic and accountable government.

2. Provide services in a sustainable manner.

3. Promote social and economic development.

4. Promote a safe and healthy environment.

5. Encourage the involvement of communities.

According to the Municipal Systems Act, a basic service is one that ensures an acceptable and reasonable quality of life with regards to water, sewage, refuse removal, roads and stormwater control, electricity, housing and firefighting. Most service standards are either determined in law or in policy documents which set out the generally accepted service standards.

Service delivery is limited when national or provincial government delegate their responsibilities to the local spheres without providing the necessary resources. This is called an “unfunded mandate”. Other limits include a shortage of income due to service user’s non-payment, government grants being too little and poor financial management. Other factors include a lack of suitable land, poor cooperation within spheres of government or being in a remote location. Practical circumstances also can limit service delivery for example fire fighting services can be limited because shacks are built too closely to one another for fire engines to pass or the absence of main water connections.

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