Johannesburg – The economic and social conditions in South African metropolitan cities are better in many respects, with increased employment and investment in economic and social infrastructure and improved external connectivity through better transport links.
However, the recession has hit some cities harder than others. After experiencing the strongest growth in the 2000s, cities in Gauteng appear to have been worst affected by the economic downturn.
This was revealed in the State of the Cities Report, released in Johannesburg on Wednesday by the non-profit organisation South African Cities Network (SACN). The report is driven by nine cities, namely Tshwane, Johannesburg, Cape Town, eThekwini, Ekurhuleni, Buffalo City, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay and Msundudzi.
The report is threefold. Firstly, it asses progress made by South African cities over the last decade in relation to key development outcomes. It then reviews strategic problems and opportunities facing the cities. Lastly, the report communicates essential messages about the planning, development and management of cities to a generation of civic leaders and officials taking office after the 2011 local government elections in May.
The report noted that the positive vision of local government has been lost in the midst of mounting concerns about service delivery protests, mismanagement, political factionalism and self-interest. It further suggested that cities must create conditions in which all citizens can develop to their full potential by leading productive and fulfilling lives.
SACN boss Sithole Mbanga said: “Through this report, we can safely conclude that through improved and different support, our cities will become spaces of socio-political and more crucially, economic growth. We know that many more challenges lie ahead, most of which will require space-specific responses.”
He said the public sector machinery needed to deal decisively with how local government has been financed over the last 10 years. This, as the report revealed that the current revenue allocation processes were not sustainable.
“The result of past financial support mechanisms and changes is the unintended consequence of reduced local accountability to local demands by municipalities. All these issues have combined to create a perception that local government is the poorer cousin of provincial and national spheres of government. Local government needs to admit that it has contributed to this perception by not improving the quality and reliability of its political and administrative human capacity,” said Mbangwa.
For the past 10 years, local government has been the supplier and not the attractor of human capacity to other spheres of government, including the private sector, added Mbanga.
Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Yunus Carrim, described the report as timely as it was released just ahead of the 18 May local government elections.
“Our cities are crucial to the country’s growth and development. Of course increasing attention is being paid to the rural areas, but getting cities to work better is crucial to strengthening the rural areas. For all the challenges, many created by conditions beyond their control, the cities have managed to cope reasonably, have shown resilience,” he said.
Carrim said they were keen to engage city leaders, managers and administrators in dialogue about the issues raised in the report. – Nthambeleni Gabara, BuaNews