Government in South Africa is divided into three spheres: National Government, Provincial government and Local government. The Local government is responsible for delivering services which have a direct impact on the public within a particular community. All three spheres are interlinked and interdependent. Inter-sphere spillages, both positive and negative are thus to be expected.
Decisions made at a local level, however minute it may seem, has the potential to bring about a ripple effect which will reach the two larger spheres of government. Good financial management and development projects at a local level may have substantially beneficial effects on the provincial and national spheres.
An example would be: Service delivery within a particular municipal boundary is done effectively and cost-efficiently. Due to this cost effectiveness, there are excess funds which can be invested in an infrastructural enhancement project. This in turn creates employment opportunities in the area and lowers the unemployment rate. As a result of the lower unemployment rate, crime rates may be reduced and people may have a reduced need to make use of government grants. This also raises the countries GDP as there are more people contributing to the countries productivity. The ripple effect is thus apparent.
The example above is based on an ideal theoretical situation and in practice; many variables could affect the progress of the ripple effect into the larger spheres. What is important to note, however, is that small sustainable successes (within the local sphere) have the potential to improve larger issues that are faced at a national level. In the same breath it should be noted that miniscule failures at local level can also promote a ripple effect with disastrous results at national level.
The question we may be asking ourselves at this point is: What other actions can government implement at local level to take advantage of the ripple effect of successes, and how can we avoid the failures of the local government from spiralling upward to national level?
The first step would be to identify and understand the successes and failures of each local government. It may seem like a daunting task, however it should be the responsibility of each municipality to locate their strengths and weaknesses. These strengths and weaknesses must be established so that the ripple effect of its weaknesses can be reduced and solutions to fix these issues can be found. It is also important to establish what the municipalities strengths are so that the ripple effect of the strengths amplified.
An example of minimising the ripple effect of local government failure is similar to the example above where clarity is given to the ripple effect. However, I will provide you with another example for clarity.
A particular area is rampant with crime. The crime ranges from house break-ins, to hijackings and cable theft. The municipality recognises crime to be the main failure in the community. The local government is also spending exorbitant amounts of money servicing the cable theft problem. The reason behind the crime is discovered to be the high unemployment rate. Once root cause is known, government are able to start looking for solutions to eradicate or at least minimise the issue. The community members propose a community policing forum and establish it to be the eyes and ears of the police. The crime rate is reduced slightly once the community policing forum is established. The local government then decides to use the money they would have spent servicing cable theft, to implement a community work program which would attack the crime problem at the source.
The community work program involves providing unemployed individuals with a reliable income while they try to obtain long term employment. (www.cogta.gov.za/cwp)
Individuals who participate in this program are given work in different fields of community service such as: agriculture, construction and gardening, all which are aimed at holistically improving the community.
Taking these two steps: 1) the community policing forum and 2) the community work program, minimises the ripple effect of the failure in the local government namely, crime. By taking action, the local government hasn’t only managed to decrease the ripple effect of their failure, but also managed to turn failure into a success. A lower crime rate at local level reduces the total crime rate of the country.
It may seem like not much can be done with the 9% allocated to local governments from the national budget. However, decisions and financial uses within local government may be a catalyst for occurrences that affect the country as a whole on a national level.