The rhetoric and reality of local government reform

Journal Article


Journal Title

Social Dynamics

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Taylor & Francis (Routledge)


University of Cape Town

N. Dewar, in his article; 'Municipal Government under the New South African Constitution: Who Gets What, Where, Who Decides, and Who Decides Who Decides?' Social Dynamics, Vol. 11(2), argues that the new local government legislation could lead to individual ethnic groups having the space to enact legislation which could precipitate fundamental changes to national level structures. This paper argues against this view because there is a great difference between the stated government commitment to devolution of power and the reality of local government legislation which is characterised by increased state centralisation of powers. Both forms of local government structures, Regional Services Councils and Primary Local Authorities, are going to be under such tight state control that the possibility of using them to challenge national structures is negligible. Local government restructuring must be seen as part of a broader state strategy to defuse political unrest and restructure the economy. This article will show how contradictory objectives of this strategy at local government level are primarily responsible for the discrepancy between government rhetoric and reality.