There is no shortage of depressing news about local government dysfunction.
Reports about corruption, failing service delivery and incompetence are rampant. Last week, the auditor general revealed that only 33 of the 257 municipalities have received clean audits – a mere 7% of all local governments.
But not all is lost. Some municipalities are doing a good job at attracting business. We spoke to business organisations in some of these towns to find out where there is the necessary co-operation, transparency, and service delivery to support local companies.
Senqu is one of the only two municipalities in the Eastern Cape that received a clean audit. The municipal area covers the towns of Barkly East, Rhodes, Sterkspruit and Lady Grey. According to Irmgard Tauber a former chairperson of the Barkly East Community Tourism Organisation, the municipality is well run because there is co-operation between the stakeholders in the tourism industry, business operators and the municipal officials.
She says the municipality organises events like soccer tournaments and festivals to attract visitors to the area and also aids guesthouse owners in getting skills. The towns are neat and kept clean and an effort is made to collect and prevent debt for services delivered. “The budget is well managed,” says Tauber.
Midvaal local municipality is the only municipality in Gauteng to receive a clean audit. It is the largest municipality in terms of surface size, but it has one of the lowest population densities. It is predominantly a rural area with a few large businesses and holiday resorts. Located to the south of Johannesburg, it encompasses the towns of Meyerton and Henley-on-Klip and the upmarket suburb of Vaal Marina.
According to Yvonne Malherbe, a former chairperson of the Midvaal Business Chamber and a local business owner, the municipality is successful because it is pro-active in encouraging businesses to move to the area.
She says the municipality will form partnerships with the private sector to build infrastructure to allow new businesses to establish themselves. “They think outside of the box and are very will to develop and support business,” says Malherbe.
Additionally, residents are paying their municipal accounts and the rate of indebtedness is low. The municipality is therefore able to provide services and maintain infrastructure.
The Ehlanzeni district municipality saw a turnaround with the appointment of Neil Diamond as the new municipal manager, in 2017, of its biggest constituent municipality, Mbombela.
Previously a series of corruption scandals left the municipality’s ability to function in tatters, says Linda Grimbeek, chief operating officer of the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism.
Ehlanzeni includes Mbombela (Nelspruit), Witrivier, Hazyview, Lydenburg and Malelane.
Mbombela, the provincial capital of Mpumalanga, is one of the fastest growing towns in South Africa due to an influx of retirees and shoppers from neighbouring countries.
Grimbeek says although the municipality is struggling to survive, townspeople have seen an improvement in service delivery in recent months. “If there is certainty that water and power will be delivered, people are more willing to relocate or invest, and that is what we are seeing now,” says Grimbeek.
Businesses in Ray Nkonjeni local municipality are delighted that their municipal authority achieved a clean audit, says Vijay Naidoo, president of the South Coast Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The municipality encompasses Port Shepstone, Port Edward, Hibberdene and Southbroom on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.
Naidoo says the clean audit instils confidence that processes and procedures are in place to promote business in transparent way. He says the municipality plays a pro-active role and listen to the concerns of business people in the area.
“The municipal officials try to accommodate business interests and created a very business friendly environment,” says Naidoo. The result is an upturn in investments in the tourism, health, and financial sectors.
The Dawid Kruiper municipality is part of the ZF Mgcawu district municipality in the Northern Cape.
Henk van der Merwe of the Upington Concerned Citizen group and a business owner in Upington says even though the infrastructure is old, the town is clean and well-kept, and it is a pleasure living and working in Upington.
He says the town’s economy is booming because the export table grape farmers are doing well. “We are dependent on the agricultural sector, but the municipality is also doing well to maintain water quality and provision,” he says.
Dawid Kruiper municipality is one of the few municipalities who does not owe Eskom money says Van der Merwe. The Upington Concerned Citizen group uses social media to highlight problems but also to praise the municipality for a job well done.
This article has been updated to clarify thatNeil Diamond is the district manager of Mbombela, one of the municipalities with the Ehlanzeni district municipality, and not of Ehlanzeni.