The Political-administrative interface in South African municipalities: Assessing the quality of local democracies

Jaap de Visser


South African municipalities experience serious challenges in dealing wit the interface between politicians and officials. Inappropriate political interference in administrative matters as well as strained relations between key political and administrative officials in the municipalities appear to be the order of the day. Oftentimes, the lack of a separation of powers between legislative and executive authority at local government level is blamed for this. This contribution has attempted to draw the attention away from the conflation of legislative and executive authority in the municipal council while still recognising it as an important background. It is suggested that, instead of spending energy on examining a possible separation of powers in local government, the relevant stakeholders (i.e. national lawmakers, municipalities and supervising provinces) should consider smaller institutional changes to the governance makeup of municipalities. Even more importantly, the political and administrative leadership of municipalities and political structures that surround them should be acutely aware of the consequences that inappropriate political leadership has on the functioning of municipalities and therefore on service delivery.

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