Government should start serving communities – not politicians

 ·1 Mar 2024

The South African Local Government’s Association (Salga) is calling for the implementation of an effective framework that guides coalitions.

This comes as a result of crippling levels of political instability in numerous local councils – particularly in various major metropolitans – that has been rendering service delivery ineffective.

For many affected residents who have felt the effects of messy politics, there is some form of concern about the idea of coalitions at a provincial or national level following the general elections on 29 May.

United Nations Development Programme’s manager Bongani Matomela, told Newzroom Afrika that unstable coalitions in the country have led to not only “challenges with regards to service delivery but it is also leading to distrust among citizens in terms of the ability of… government to deliver.”

However, many surveys predict that at both provincial and national levels, coalitions are expected.

Unfortunately, if these coalitions follow in the footsteps of some local government coalitions, the country could see chaotic negotiations and frequent changes in leadership – ultimately harming residents the most.

As such, Salga hosted a seminar this week aimed at finding ways to foster effective governance partnerships to best serve citizens, rather than party interests.

Salga COO, Lance Joel, told SAfm that the seminar “is a s conversation looking at the experiences [of countries who have working coalitions]… with the view of emerging with what could be key proposals towards stability [for areas governed by coalitions].”

Joel said that a core factor that is enabling coalition instability in major metros is that “there are no guidelines and/or prescripts to regulate coalition governments themselves, whether it is the establishment of the coalition governments or whether it is maintaining once an agreement has been reached by coalition partners.”

“In the absence of a regulatory framework, it is really up to the political parties to make the rules as they proceed,” he added.

As a result of this, there are numerous disagreements both during the establishment phase and during the coalitions themselves – which leads to short-term agreements.

Thus, the seminar “is looking at a framework that would ensure that at the core of the establishment of coalitions are agreements that are reflective of what coalition partners will deliver for the benefit of communities and ensure that the plan they put together is legal firstly,” said Joel.

He said that the framework for coalition agreements would need to prioritize the needs of communities over political and individual interests.

Read: South Africa heading towards the shaky world of national coalitions

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