Prof De Visser addresses DDP Conference on Local Government

"Reflecting on 20 years of Local Government" was the title of a presentation by Jaap de Visser to a conference on Local Government, organised by the Democracy Development Programme (DDP) in Durban on 20 October 2014.

De Visser celebrated the successful transition of local government institutions and the extension of basic services at a scale that is unprecedented. However, he also engaged the audience on the challenges in democratising local government, discussing issues such as the spate of service delivery protests and the importance of good governance at local level.

He challenged national government for setting unrealistic policy targets for local government (such as the Operation Clean Audit target of clean audits for all by 2014) and encouraged local government to continue improving internal oversight. All in all, while the achievements in local government transformation are impressive by all accounts, much remains to be done and civil society's watchful eye on municipalities is more needed than ever.

At this 9th Annual Local Government Conference the delegates had to unpack the following questions: Can the fast pace of local government restructuring and transformation lead to failing local democratisation and social ills? Is politicisation of the local governance process a concern? What can South Africa learn from Africa in order to map a way forward?

The Conference addressed six key subthemes that are critical to ensuring the success and sustainability of the local government system in the third decade of democracy in South Africa:
• Review of the African and South African Experience in local governance;
• Politics and management interface at the local level;
• National and provincial and local planning and cooperative governance;
• LED: Informal Economy Youth and Infrastructure Development, and the role of SMMEs and cooperatives;
• Monitoring and evaluation in Local Government
• Ethics, integrity and corruption in Local Government.
This Conference will interrogate each of these issues, highlighting key challenges and proposing possible recommendations in the broader context of innovation, best practices and good local governance, as well as improved service delivery, which local communities have been campaigning for over the past few years.