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The Best and Worst Municipalities in South Africa 2019

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2019-05-09
Three recent reports have revealed the shocking state of South African municipalities. The majority are criminally incompetent, financially unstable and teetering dangerously on the edge of complete and utter collapse. There are, however, a handful that are keeping the circus running. Let's take a look at the best and worst municipalities in South Africa.

By the time you read this article, everybody inclined to cast their ballot for the upcoming elections has done so, and now we await the results. In the meanwhile, it’s worth taking a closer look at the current state of South African municipalities, and how efficiently they have been run over the last twelve months. 

Last month, we saw no less than three important reports published that assessed the financial stability, governance, quality of administration, economic development and service delivery of our municipalities, as well as, most crucially, how satisfied we, the public, are with what we’re seeing. 

After all, we pay for these services. 

Let’s dive right in. 

The Municipal Financial Stability Index

The first report that we’ll be looking at is the Municipal Financial Stability Index, published by Ratings Afrika. This report evaluates how South African municipalities manage their funds, and how this management impacts service delivery in that specific area.

Ratings Afrika defines financial stability quite simply; the ability to deliver services, and to develop and maintain the infrastructure required by the residents, without the unplanned increase in rates or taxes, and without any reduction in the level of service. 

Financial stability, of course, also means that a municipality should be able to absorb any financial shock due to external, unforeseen factors, without requiring any financial assistance from third parties. 

Such as Eskom, or SAA, or SABC, for example, which constantly grovel for taxpayer-funded bailouts at the feet of the National Treasury.

I digress. So, to determine which municipalities are actually managing their money properly, Ratings Afrika undertook the harrowing job of combing through the financial statements of each and every municipality, dating all the way back to June 2018.

That’s a hell of a lot of KFC that, no doubt, can’t be accounted for.  

It may come as no surprise to any South African that most municipalities in our country are in financial anguish. When the nights are cold and the load-shedding is in full swing, you can almost hear the municipal death rattle echoing in the dark. 

Most of our municipalities lack any form of budget planning, and are entirely incapable of exercising adequate fiscal discipline. Expenses exceed income at every turn, and the losses grow higher and higher with every passing minute. 

In fact, according to Ratings Afrika, only 23 from the sample 100 municipalities have reported operating surpluses, while the others are running at a growing deficit. The combined profits of those 23 add up to R1.4 billion, while the combined losses of the other 77 add up to a staggering R13.3 billion. 

Unless the problem can be addressed in a hurry, and the looting, wasteful, negligent, fruitless spending can be cauterized, South Africa will inevitably bleed out and die. There will be a complete and utter collapse in service delivery, with catastrophic consequences for both residents and businesses.

When we look at specific provinces, the Free State and the North West have proven to be the weakest, with the majority of the municipalities in these provinces facing financial peril. 

The Western Cape, on the other hand, showed itself to be the highest scoring province, and also the most improved province in the last five years.

The Western Cape, according to the report, is the only province in South Africa whose governance practices are considered to be sound. 

And when we look at the best and worst municipalities within those provinces, we find that the Swartland (Malmesbury) municipality has been governed the most soundly, while everybody in Modimolle (Nylstroom) appears to be completely doomed. 

Government Performance Index

The second report comes from think-tank, Good Governance Africa, which ranks 213 local municipalities from best to worst based on how they have performed across three main areas: quality of administration, economic development, and service delivery.

The Government Performance Index assesses whether a municipality has an adequate amount of skilled personnel to manage the area, and how well it delivers on services such as sanitation, water, electricity, waste removal, policing, housing, healthcare and education. Finally, it also looks at financial management and reporting. 

The GGA index has found the Mossel Bay municipality to be the best-run in South Africa, and Msinga to be the worst. 

Of the top twenty municipalities, twelve can be found in the Western Cape. Eleven of these are run solely by the DA. Among the twenty worst municipalities, nine can be found in KwaZulu Natal and seven in the Eastern Cape. Most of these are run by the ANC, with the IFP running four.

The top ten best municipalities on this list are:

  1. Mossel Bay (WC)
  2. Senqu (EC)
  3. Swartland (WC)
  4. Sol Plaatje (NC)
  5. Greater Kokstad (KZN)
  6. Midvaal (GP)
  7. Khai-Ma Local (NC)
  8. Bergrivier (WC)
  9. Cape Agulhas (WC)
  10. Prince Albert (WC)

South African Customer Satisfaction Index

The latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) by Consulta has revealed that South Africans just don’t trust metropolitan municipalities anymore, and find most to be dangerously incompetent.

The index measures citizen satisfaction and trust in service delivery across eight metropolitan municipalities; Buffalo City (East London and surrounds), Cape Town, Ekurhuleni (East Rand Gauteng), eThikwini (Durban and surrounds), Johannesburg, Manguang (Bloemfontein and surrounds), Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth and surrounds) and Tshwane.

The index is based on survey results, conducted by interviewing 2 506 people across the areas, representative of the resident demographics in each metro. 

The results revealed that trust in municipal service delivery is currently the lowest that it has been since the inception of the index in 2014. Every single metro rating is in decline.

Cape Town emerged as the clear, best municipality for the sixth consecutive year, at least in terms of overall citizen satisfaction. Manguang was rated the worst metro municipality for the second consecutive year, hitting a record low.  

People want a clean and consistent supply of water. They want access to electricity. They want the roads to be maintained and cleaned, and the garbage to be disposed of, and adequate sanitation. They want policing to be effective, and healthcare to be efficient, and education to be accessible. 

Most worryingly, there are many areas in South Africa where these expectations are not being met – not in the slightest – and the standard of service continues to plummet. We see year-on-year decline, with no sign of ever fully recovering 

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