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Since the inception of the democratically elected post-apartheid government, South Africa has experienced growing numbers of protests about inadequate provision of basic municipal services. Recent studies have revealed that the poor performance of municipal officials contributes towards poor municipal service delivery. This article is based on a study which used qualitative key stakeholder interviews to analyse the performance of South African municipal officials, specifically in the delivery of services. It found that the following inter-related factors were responsible for the lack of performance: an unsupportive institutional environment, negative power struggles, over-regulation, political interference, a tense and bureaucratic environment, lack of coherent management systems, absence of a culture of excellence, poor skill utilisation, poor oversight mechanisms, weak capacity to engage in collaborations, and lack of trust between councillors from different political parties. The study concludes that for South African municipalities to meet their constitutional obligations to deliver optimal basic services to the people, the government must, inter alia, invest in building the capacity of municipal officials through the development of skills and other crucial local government interventions and transformations. The municipalities should also depoliticise local government and promote non-partisan appointment of municipal officials.
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