Research & Publications

Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

A growing number of African countries are considering passing or implementing reforms that include some form of decentralisation. There is thus a demand for clear and accessible materials that would assist policymakers, practitioners, students and members of the public to better understand the various concepts and mechanisms associated with decentralisation. A few countries on the continent are considering or implementing federalism, while many more are weighing up or are already implementing decentralised systems of government.

Factsheet 1: Decentralisation: Definitions of key concepts
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

There are different forms of decentralisation: federalism, devolution, local governance, delegation, deconcentration, and traditional leaderships. What do these mean?

Factsheet 2: Federalism and federations
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

A number of countries in Africa have federal or federal-type constitutions, for example Ethiopia (1991), South Africa (1994), Nigeria (1999, re-establishing earlier federal constitutions), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2006), the Sudan (2005); Kenya (2010); South Sudan (2011), and Somalia (2012). Only in the cases of Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia does the word ‘Federal’ form part of the country’s official name, as in the ‘Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’.

Factsheet 4: Local government autonomy
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

Local autonomy can be defined as the extent to which local governments have discretion in carrying out their obligations. This can never be interpreted as absolute freedom for local governments to take whatever decisions they like. The extent of this autonomy differs from country to country.

Factsheet 5: Local government powers
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

The powers of local government are an important indicator of the degree of local autonomy. How then are local governments empowered and their powers protected and ensured?

Factsheet 6: Local government finances
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

Finances lie at the core of effective and autonomous local government. If denied sufficient funding, local authorities cannot perform their functions. Local finances typically centre around four main matters: (1) the revenue of local authorities; (2) the budget; (3) expenditure; and (4) internal and external controls to prevent and correct poor financial management, including corruption.

Factsheet 7: Supervision of local government
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

What are the main forms of supervision? Local governments require some form of autonomy if they are to be effective in delivering on their functions. Equally important is the need for higher levels of governments to supervise local governments to ensure the promotion and protection of both local and national goals. Supervision is also important to deal with the ills often associated with decentralisation such as incapacity, corruption and resource wastage.

Factsheet 8: Local government and cooperative government
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

Why cooperative government? A decentralised system of government is defined as a system made up of two or more levels of government, with each level having powers over different functions and responsibilities. Different governments within one level (e.g. different local authorities) or governments across two or more levels, are engaged in combined and individual efforts to meet citizens’ needs and preferences. They have to work together on matters of common concern to ensure that government as a whole delivers on its mandates.

Factsheet 9: The role of traditional authorities in local governance
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

Almost all countries in Africa have traditional authorities in some form. The most common structures of the institution of traditional leadership are, in order of power and authority, kings, chiefs, headmen and village heads. Because of how they are organised, traditional authorities are the most immediate form of governance in many rural parts of the continent.

Factsheet 10: African charter on decentralisation, local governance and local development
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Tinashe Chigwata
Published: Aug 10, 2021

The African Union (AU) adopted the ‘African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Governance and Local Development’ in 2014. The Charter is the first real effort of the AU to promote decentralised systems of governance on the continent. It provides a framework for local governance, which parties to the Charter are required to implement in their respective countries.

Democracy, Elections, and Constitutionalism in Africa
Author: Charles M. Fombad and Nico Steytler
Published: May 18, 2021

The third wave of democracy that reached African shores at the end of the Cold War brought with it a dramatic decline from 1990 onwards in dictatorships, military regimes, one-party governments, and presidents for life. Multiparty democracy was at the core of the constitutional revolutions that swept through most of Africa in those watershed years. However, that wave is either losing momentum or receding - or being reversed in its entirety.

Report on Hung Councils in South Africa: Law and Practice
Author: Jennica Beukes
Published: Apr 01, 2021

Coalition governments across South Africa's municipalities have mostly been unstable. Are there any mechanisms or rules that can be adopted to facilitate stability in coalition governments? Does the law need to be reformed to accommodate coalition governments in local government? How can existing structures in local government be used to structure coalition governments in a way that parties are encouraged to cooperate in the coalition? This paper discusses coalition governments in municipalities and offers insight into these questions.

The Value of Comparative Federalism: The Legacy of Ronald L. Watts
Author: Nico Steytler, Balveer Arora and Rekha Saxena (eds)
Published: Dec 13, 2020

This book explores new avenues of international research in comparative federal studies. It re-examines the conceptual tools and methodologies for understanding federal systems, and the role of comparative federalism in the dissemination and implementation of federal concepts. It highlights the influence of comparative federalism on constitution-making as well as constitutional reforms.

The Journey to Transform Local Government
Author: Tinashe C Chigwata, Jaap de Visser and Lungelwa Kaywood (eds)
Published: Dec 04, 2020

The Journey to Transform Local Government is about the challenges and opportunities for municipalities in South Africa as they journey towards delivering on the promise of developmental local government.

Local Government Reform in Zambia: The 2016 Constitution’s Framework for Devolution
Author: Tinashe C Chigwata, Nico Steytler, Jaap de Visser and Frank Kunda
Published: Sep 02, 2020

Local Government Reform in Zambia: The 2016 Constitution’s Framework for Devolution is the first book that assesses the framework for devolved governance as provided for in the 2016 Constitution of Zambia. Experts from various fields discuss the motivation behind the adoption of devolution in Zambia. They explore what the framework for devolution entails and how it can be implemented in practice. This in-depth analysis of local government reforms in Zambia was edited by Tinashe C Chigwata, Nico Steytler, Jaap de Visser and Frank Kunda.

Transparency in local government procurement during COVID-19
Author: Carlene van der Westhuizen, Tinashe Chigwata and Jaap de Visser
Published: Jul 10, 2020

Municipalities procure goods and services from private entities almost daily. These goods and services are often essential for ensuring the provision of basic amenities such as water, sanitation, electricity, and refuse removal.

Webinar on Municipal Budgeting and Planning During COVID-19: Key issues and observations from the Webinar
Author: Jaap de Visser and TC Chigwata
Published: Jun 11, 2020

The first of a series of webinars on local government and COVID-19, hosted by the Dullah Omar Institute and the International Budget Partnership, took place on 04 June 2020, in partnership with the South African Local Government Association. The webinars aim to promote best practices pertaining to transparency and responsiveness in local government during the era of COVID-19.

Author: Jaap de Visser and TC Chigwata
Published: Jun 01, 2020

A municipality’s Integrated Development Plan is a five-year strategic plan, where the many interests, wishes and preferences of a municipal community are mediated and put into action. The municipality’s budget allocates resources to this plan. Each year, municipalities review their IDPs and pass a budget for their financial year, which runs from 1 July to 30 June.

Decentralization and Constitutionalism in Africa
Author: Charles M. Fombad and Nico Steytler (eds)
Published: Sep 10, 2019

This collection of essays assesses the efforts of African governments to constitutionalise decentralisation, be it in the form of federalism, local government or traditional authorities.

Report back: International Conference on 2019 National and Provincial Elections
Author: Jacob
Published: Jun 19, 2019

On 25 April 2019, the SARChI Chair, Dullah Omar Institute, and Department of Political Studies (UWC) held an International Conference focusing on National and Provincial Elections of 8 May 2019. The key questions at the conference were: Populism, provincialism, womxn, and election credibility The national and provincial elections of 8 May 2019 are regarded by many as the most important since the first democratic elections of 1994. Four key questions were addressed by four panels of experts, with some placed in an international comparative perspective. This event was part of a series of roundtables on human rights and democracy.

Implementing SPLUMA: A Review of Four 'Post-SPLUMA' Provincial Planning Bills
Author: Xavia Poswa and Jaap de Visser
Published: Oct 25, 2017

The legal framework for spatial planning and land use management in South Africa is undergoing considerable change with a new national Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act of 2013 (SPLUMA) and the adoption of municipal planning by-laws throughout the country. The Constitution permits provinces to also pass laws on the matter. Of the nine provinces, the Western Cape is the only province that has passed 'post-SPLUMA' provincial legislation. This report conducts an interim assessment of how some of the other provinces are approaching this issue. It analyses four provincial planning bills of Mpumalanga, North West, Free State and Limpopo.

Electing Councillors: a Guide to Municipal Elections
Author: Jaap de Visser and Nico Steytler
Published: May 01, 2016

This manual outlines the electoral system for local government in South Africa. It deals with the right to vote, the different categories of municipalities, ward and PR councillors, how to field candidates, by-elections, conduct during elections as well as the calculation of results. It is a detailed manual, designed to assist civil society organisations, the media and electoral officers.

Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations in South Africa and the Role of the Financial and Fiscal Commission A 20 Year Review
Author: Jaap de Visser and Zemelak Ayele
Published: Jul 01, 2014

The FFC is government's primary advisor on intergovernmental fiscal relations. This 20-year review assesses (1) the relationships between the FFC and the various component parts of the South African multilevel government system (2) the FFC's impact on decision making and (3) the FFC's governance and administrative performance.

Local Government Reform in Zimbabwe - A Policy Dialogue
Author: Jaap de Visser, Nico Steytler and Naison Machingauta
Published: Jun 01, 2010

A compilation of chapters on local government in Zimbabwe, addressing matters such as institutions, elections, finance, traditional leadership, powers and supervision.

Are Ward Committees Working? Insights from six case studies
Author: Terence Smith and Jaap de Visser
Published: Jun 01, 2009

Ward committees are posited as the focal point for community participation in municipalities. There are many questions, however, about how effective they are; whether they are useful conduits for community involvement in governance; whether, as ‘created spaces’ for public participation, they are inherently capable of playing that role; and whether they create opportunities for real power-sharing between municipalities and citizens. This research report offers contains in-depth qualitative studies of six ward committees. It provides insight into how ward committees are functioning and the key reasons behind the some of the problems many appear to have. It also provides valuable lessons for strengthening the role of ward committees.