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  • Tess Peacock and Tinotenda Muringani

Political action and collective power — how to hold our municipalities accountable

A view of colorful shacks on March 10, 2009, in Duncan Village a poor township outside East London, South Africa. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)

For 25 years, the government has come up with a range of varying formulas aimed at improving the state of local government, but we find ourselves today, with only 38 out of 257 municipalities receiving a clean financial audit. Is this the democratic dispensation that was promised in 1994?

The crisis of local government in South Africa is not only a political and economic problem, but also a moral and ethical one. It affects the quality of life of millions of people who depend on basic services such as water, roads, electricity, and sanitation. It undermines the vision of a just and caring society that respects human dignity. It also suffocates economic growth and increases political instability. It challenges our social fabric. The situation requires an active citizenry and urgent action from our politicians.

Our politicians should be deeply saddened by the findings of the Auditor General’s report for 2021/22. Thirty-eight out of 257 municipalities received a clean audit, a situation that has seen a drop from 41 municipalities in the last audit. This drop is a regression when assessed over a five-year period which saw improvements in local government clean audits. The report also revealed that irregular expenditure amounted to R136-billion while fruitless and wasteful expenditure reached R4.74-billion. The report also highlighted that local governments remain in financial distress owing to reduced revenue while also failing to spend the limited funds available.

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