Rescaling municipal governance amidst political competition in Gauteng: Sedibeng’s proposed re-demarcation
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GCRO Occasional Paper #18
In 2011, the Gauteng Provincial Government proposed that Sedibeng, a Category C district municipality located in the province, should be restructured into a metro through the merger of local municipalities. Although the original proposal had anticipated that this would happen after the 2016 local elections, the issue remains unresolved due largely to fierce party-political opposition and vociferous protests against it on the ground.
This Occasional Paper examines the dynamics, peculiarities and challenges of re-demarcating local government in the Gauteng City-Region. While informed by technical reasons, the arguments for and against the merger have tended to gravitate more towards party-political rationales for why re-demarcation should or should not go ahead. Although these debates raise important merits and demerits for the proposal, they are difficult to disentangle from the interests of those whose fortunes would be changed by restructuring. In this environment, municipal demarcation risks being held hostage by party politics, with stakeholders such as political parties using any means at their disposal to have things go their way, including by scapegoating the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB).
The case of Sedibeng presents important lessons for how to make post-transition local government – and mechanisms for determining its configuration – work for Gauteng. It also highlights the need for strengthening and revising demarcation-related legislation, especially to safeguard that the MDB functions effectively with respect to its primary goals?