Poverty alleviation by local municipalities in South Africa's North West Province with reference to Potchefstroom
Malefane, Shepherd Ramakatu
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The cause of poverty lies mainly in the long history of segregation and discrimination that has left a legacy of inequality and poverty in the South African society. In response to the high levels of poverty, the government, following the 1994 first national democratic elections, embarked on programmes of service delivery in an attempt to deliver quality, equitable and accessible services to the society. Its second term in office distinguished the fight against poverty as a major priority. In carrying this mandate out, greater autonomy was granted to local government than previously. Despite legislative obligations assigning municipalities to design new operational procedures and structures, they had to seriously carry out massive development projects to address social and economic inequities existing in their immediate communities. The Local Government Municipal Systems Act guides the framework within which the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) have to be implemented. According to the Act, the lDPs are intended to be multi-sectoral programmes, primarily in response to poverty issues at municipal levels. The Act further sees lDPs as aimed to reduce service delivery backlogs at local municipal levels of government. In an attempt to provide a holistic approach to local governance and poverty alleviation, this study takes cognisance of the multidimensional nature of poverty in South Africa. It further sees curbing existing inequalities in spatial development as positive moves in the fight against poverty. Furthermore, it emphasises an integrated strategy with participatory processes as a way towards achieving the anticipated development goal. This discussion, and this research project, has made it evident that reducing poverty is a complex phenomenon that requires a multidimensional, co-operative, inter-institutional and integrated approach. Despite the need at local municipal level to bring into play participatory processes, they acquire a large degree of support from national and provincial departments of government. This support offered by the various specialised departments, has disappointingly spoilt many local municipalities, leading to confusion regarding the role they, local municipalities themselves, have to play within their own areas of jurisdiction. The main challenges facing these institutions are evident in their inability to use their lDPs as service delivery machines that improve the quality of life of their communities. Both internal and external environments of a municipality are interdependent on each other; should the municipality be internally weak, the chances of being able to deal with external and communal problems are bleak. The findings presented by this study highlight a larger proportion of households living below the poverty threshold in Potchefstroom. The dynamic is as a result of a high unemployment rate, reduced income generating activities and failing Small Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMME) development in specific municipal wards in the jurisdiction of Potchefstroom. There is also significance in the dependency over the informal sector and survival activities as a result of low educational status of households, as well as increased perceptions around the level of crime in general. In a nutshell, responses to social and economic conditions were sparsely distributed around all the wards of the municipality, with a ward level analysis locating the majority of the poor between wards 11 and 20. It is also where major backlogs in infrastructure development and poor provision of basic services were identified. Furthermore, it is also in these wards where the majority of households expressed lower levels of satisfaction regarding life scale and emotional well-being, as well as municipal service delivery and the City Council's performance. Although the findings present fairly distributed responses in terms of satisfaction with life and emotional wellness and satisfaction with municipal services and performance, evidence is that the majority of the households that displayed higher dissatisfaction levels could be located in the mentioned municipal wards. The dissatisfaction presented by the findings of the research included backlogs in basic infrastructure and the . provision of social services. The findings of the research project present numerous challenges faced by the municipality with special reference to poverty reduction. The challenges could be classified into internal and external factors. Internal challenges include the following: o Inadequate inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and multi-institutional approaches during the planning stages; o Lack of capacity within the municipality to effectively plan, implement and iii manage interventions; o Lack of performance tracking and management instruments; o The sectoral organisation of budgets that makes it difficult to fund integrated projects; o Limited transparency in funding development projects; and o Poor impact assessment and monitoring of development projects. External factors in this research project are described as those factors external to the institutional arrangements of the municipality. However, their severity of these factors is linked to the failure or inability of internal arrangements, human capital, budgets, procedures and capacities of the municipality to effectively address them. The external factors include the following: o Inadequacies in spatial development; o High rate of unemployment; o Housing and infrastructure backlogs; o Lack of income generating activities and SMME development; o Low educational attainment in the community; o Poor consultation with relevant stakeholders (community participation); o Increased crime and dependency over survival activities; and o Poor quality of social and physical living conditions. Despite the Municipal Council of Potchefstroom being the focus and the site of research activities, the findings presents the across-the-board internal and external challenges facing municipalities in their mandate of poverty alleviation. In other words, the findings are global in a sense that they can be utilised as a model in implementation of the lDPs as poverty alleviation tools at local municipal levels of government country-wide.
- ETD@PUK