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Complexities of Service Delivery in South African Municipalities: The Diagnostic Potential of Decentralization

Beauty Zindi and Emmanuel Ndhlovu


Published: 2023/12/01


Background: Efficient service delivery has been one of the top priorities of the new democratic government in South Africa since 1994. The government created a three-tier government system: national, provincial, and local government. This was meant to improve service delivery by decentralizing the provision of services. Objective: The study examines the decentralization process and the challenges South African municipalities face regarding service delivery. Setting: South African municipalities. Methods: This article uses content analysis. The documents identified for review and analysis include municipal reports, journals, textbooks, newspapers, and various policy documents that document the decentralization process in South African municipalities. Results: The study shows that human resource challenges, poor financial management systems, corruption, and maladministration are among the major causes of poor service delivery in South African municipalities. Conclusions: The study concludes that human ills are at the center of the failures exhibited by South African municipalities. To be functional and to provide quality services, municipalities must aim to increase community participation, adopt good leadership styles, and hire qualified personnel. Contribution: The study proposes strategies through which the factors that inhibit the provision of quality services can be addressed. Keywords: Decentralization, Governance, Local government, Service delivery, Principal agent theory

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