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Research influencing decision making in Local Government


Posted: 05 April 2018


Evidence-based research should inform decision making and policy making in Local Government. SALGA has embarked on a new journey aimed at strengthening its research capability through collaborations with various research agencies as part of rethinking Local Government transformation says SALGA CEO Xolile George.

On 28 – 29 March 2018, SALGA in partnership with the University of the Western Cape (UWC) Dullah Omar Institute (DOI) held the first SALGA Research Colloquium at the Cape Sun Hotel, Western Cape.  Under the banner “Rethinking Local Government Transformation: Spatial Planning, Robust Governance and Sustainable Financing as tools for Developmental Local Government”, the two -day conference brought together researchers, academics, policy-makers and government practitioners under one roof.

SALGA seeks to collaborate in undertaking research that makes stakeholders aware of some of the fundamental structural challenges being faced by local government and to collectively identify remedies to such challenges. Therefore, the objectives of the SALGA Research Colloquium are to assist stakeholders in local government with understanding the challenges and develop tangible solutions that can enhance the performance of individual municipalities and local government in general.

Keynote speaker Professor Nico Steyler from the Dullah Omar Institute said: “Researchers need to do their part so that there is a transformation in local government. When the internal accountability mechanisms fail, focus often shifts to the provincial mechanism and how they play their oversight role, however, provincial and national government supervision of local government has been lacklustre.”

The Constitution of South Africa affords all citizens the right to protect the environment and secure sustainable development that promotes justifiable social and economic benefits. However, the government has previously neglected rural and peri-urban areas in terms of introducing statutory planning measures to guide their growth and development.

Based on a study conducted by Mfundo Dube and Zotha Zondo in the Mzingazi Village, City of uMhlathuze Municipality “planning systems have continued to perpetuate peri-urban areas as a criminal offence as they are continuously referred to as ‘illegal or informal’ settlements.”

Consequently, Mzingazi Village which is owned by the municipality was initially earmarked and used for residential developments in support of the Richards Bay port. Today the village is a built-up area which generally depicts a disorderly spatial pattern, unregulated land subdivision and transactions. Attractive residential area for middle-income groups has an effective public transport system, affordable rental housing stock, and an uncontrollable population growth, nonetheless, there is an urgent need for regulation in this area.

Mags Iyer from the City of uMhlathuze Municipality says that the legislative gaps in traditional areas are due to constitutional non-compliance, difficulties in the interpretation of the National Building Regulations Act, as well as no clear mainstream understanding of traditional land ownership.

These gaps further result in “unsafe structures being built as buildings structures are not in line with municipal zones,” she says, “thus, there is often an abuse of land allocation systems in traditional areas as very large beautiful homes in Mzingazi and Mandlazini Agri-villages have no rates bill, no business licences or no planning permission or consent.”

“As a way of ‘Rethinking Local Government Transformation’, we need to establish a shared understanding of the National Building Regulation Act and the Land Use Scheme with traditional leaders so that the local authority can provide maps and plans to assist with more suitable land allocation,” she says.
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