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Capable and effective local government is central to the South African government’s developmental agenda. The primary aim of this programme is to investigate the factors that undermine this capability and effectiveness; to understand the day-to-day reality of administration and politics in municipalities and the factors that shape this reality.

Our approach is fundamentally ethnographic – to obtain insights from the point of view of those located inside local government. The aim of our research is twofold: firstly, to make a contribution to the relevant academic literature, and secondly to make a meaningful impact on the outcomes of local government.

Lead: Dr Thina Nzo

Researchers: Dr Tracy Ledger, Mahlatse Rampedi

Energy GovernanceLocal GovtPolicy briefs and resourcesPublications
April 18, 2024

Policy brief | Rapid electricity supply diversification in municipalities is the key to economic recovery, municipal financial sustainability and a permanent end to load shedding

This policy brief was developed by PARI’s Energy Transition programme, whose overarching goal is to contribute to the successful implementation of a Just Energy Transition (JET) in South Arica; a…
Local GovtPublicationsReports
December 15, 2023

Inclusive and Decentralised Renewable Energy Development : Local government community inclusivity and readiness for green hydrogen development in Namakwa District Municipality

A report by Thina Nzo and Jugal Mahabir. The main objective of this research is to provide a critical assessment of the principle of inclusion and the readiness of host…
Local GovtPolicy briefs and resourcesPublicationsState Reform
November 28, 2023

Policy brief | ‘Stabilising’ the political-administrative interface in local government: where to from here?

By Sarah Meny-Gibert and Ryan Brunette This policy brief focuses on delineating and stabilising the political administrative interface in local government in South Africa. Often framed in policy discussions as…
LandLocal GovtPolicy briefs and resourcesPublications
November 28, 2023

Policy brief | Why indigenous land tenure security is a condition for indigenous community engagement

By Gaynor Paradza and Jabu Hlatshwayo ABSTRACT Secure land tenure is a precondition to beneficial land occupation. Tenure security enables land holders to derive benefit from their land. Although they…
Local GovtNewsOp EdPublications
July 31, 2023

Op Ed | Explosion of a decaying city: Defects of Joburg’s poor urban management revealed

Image: Thabo Mhambi / Bree Street, Johannesburg Thina Nzo | Explosion of a decaying city: Defects of Joburg's poor urban management revealed The rapid urbanisation and population density in Johannesburg…
Local GovtNewsPublicationsReports
June 18, 2023

Report | The Case of Alfred Nzo District Municipality

Energy GovernanceEventsLocal GovtMultimediaNewswebinars
June 6, 2023

Webinar | Urban-Rural Renewable Energy Transition in Germany and South Africa

6 June 2023 The webinar will look at how energy transition policies in Germany reproduce uneven development between urban and rural territories, and draw parallels to South Africa's REIPP programme,…
Local GovtMediaMultimediaNewsvideos
June 5, 2023

Watch | Municipal audits: Why are the numbers still so low and who is to blame?

4 June 2023 Thina Nzo contributed to a panel on eNCA's On the Spot with Lukhona Mnguni discussing DPME's role in assisting municipalities with monitoring and oversight to be able…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
March 22, 2023

Watch | Coalition administration challenges in municipalities

On 15 March 2023, Newzroom Afrika hosted an insightful discussion about Good Governance Africa's urgent call for an independent panel to look into improving South Africa's framework around party coalitions…
Local GovtNewsOp EdPublications
February 14, 2023

Op Ed | The (un)making of mayoral leadership behind coalition city governments

Photo 163653453 / South Africa © Hakan Can Yalcin | By Thina Nzo First published in the Mail and Guardian The ousting of the City of Johannesburg mayor Mpho…
Local GovtMultimediaNewswebinars
February 9, 2023

Watch | The Impact of Loadshedding on Municipal Services and Finances

Eskom has declared that load shedding stages 2 to 4 will be implemented over the next two years. PARI's Local Government programme hosted a panel to discuss the medium to…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
January 20, 2023

Watch | Is the ANC still a good fit for a democratic South Africa?

Enca : Jan 19, 2023 Is the ANC still a good fit for a democratic South Africa? Thina Nzo senior researcher from PARI responds to the question.
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
October 26, 2022

Watch | Phalatse Skating on Thin Ice Despite Court Victory

Newzroom Afrika: Despite a court judgement setting aside the Johannesburg council special meeting that ousted Dr. Mpho Phalatse as mayor, it seems Phalatse has little chances of winning votes should…
Local GovtOp EdPublications
October 10, 2022

Op Ed | Coalition politics: Coalition governments should be about citizens, not winning seats

by Lindiwe Ndlela   'Unless proper care is taken to formulate citizen-centric coalition agreements, stability will remain a pipe dream and service delivery will continue to suffer,' writes Lindiwe Ndlela.…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
September 29, 2022

Watch | More political activity expected in Gauteng

Newzroom Afrika: Sep 5, 2022 Gauteng is set to become a hive of political activity this week as Joburg opposition parties prepare to remove the mayor Mpho Phalatse. Gauteng premier…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
September 29, 2022

Watch | Ramaphosa calls on councils to behave

Newzroom Afrika: Sep 28, 2022 President Cyril Ramaphosa has again called on municipal workers to behave better at local government and in councils. He was speaking at the Local Government…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
August 22, 2022

Watch | Corruption is not the only issue impacting service delivery, says Ledger

Newzroom Afrika - 22 August 2022 - Although corruption at municipal level is a major issue affecting service delivery, Public Affairs Research Institute's Tracy Ledger believes it is not the…
Local GovtPublicationsReports
July 6, 2022

System of Capacity Building for Local Government: Diagnostic Review

This Diagnostic Review is the first step in the design of a broader multi-year programme intending to improve the outcomes of the current capacity building system as South Africa enters…
Local GovtNewsOp EdPublications
June 30, 2022

Op Ed | Covid-19 Informal Settlement

By Thina Nzo While the coronavirus lockdown exacerbated the pre-existing spatial inequalities and the housing crisis in Cape Town, it contributed to the growth of informality and its symbiotic relationship…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
June 21, 2022

Watch | Thina Nzo: A metro-by-metro analysis

On 20 June 2022,  Newzroom Afrika looked at the state of municipalities - and particularly the metros. The political problems in some metros - look at the instability in Nelson…
LandLocal GovtNewsOp EdPublicationstraditional leaders
May 25, 2022

Op Ed | KZN Floods: The dangerous cocktail of traditional authorities and local government

Photo 57214329 © | By Mbongiseni Buthelezi Traditional leaders assign land giving little consideration to spatial planning for long-term, sustainable settlement. People are settled in places unsuitable for human…
Local GovtMultimediaNewspodcasts
March 8, 2022

Watch | Should local officials’ pay be tied to performance?

The Watch Dog, SABC 1, interviewed Local Government Programme Lead Thina Nzo on 8 March 2022 about the proposal for local councillors to be paid according to their performance evaluations.…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
March 4, 2022

Watch | Fixing Municipal Finances

The Watch Dog, SABC 1, interviewed PARI's Local Government Programme Lead Thina Nzo on 4 March 2022 about what it would take for municipalities to deliver on their promises. Catch…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
November 9, 2021

Watch | Coalition Talks Following Local Elections

Local Government lead, Thina Nzo, spoke to Newzroom Afrika on 8 November 2021. 'So there are coalition negotiations underway around the country in different ways - the ANC’s national working…
Local GovtMultimediaNewswebinars
October 26, 2021

Watch | Corruption and Governance in Local Government

Dr Tracy Ledger, Lead of PARI's Energy and Society programme, participated in this webinar hosted by the Mail&Guardian. Streamed live on Oct 25, 2021 • The Auditor-General’s reports of the…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
October 7, 2021

WATCH | Has access to basic services enabled transformation or entrenched poverty?

The Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) has released a report on its investigation of the provisions of basic municipal services to low-income households in South Africa. Overwhelmingly the poorest 50%…
Local GovtNewsOp EdPublications
October 5, 2021

We need a ‘Food First’ approach to basic municipal services and not use them as a source of local government revenue

By Tracy Ledger First published in Daily Maverick, 4 Oct 2021 Municipal services (electricity, water and sanitation) are intended to be a tool to reduce poverty and inequality. Providing services…
Local GovtMultimediaNewspodcasts
October 4, 2021

Listen | Basic services costs take food off the table

Based on the Access to Basic to Services report, Tracy Ledger chats to Chai FM about how basic services costs are making South African households poorer, most importantly at the…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
October 4, 2021

WATCH | Sophie’s Choice for Many South Africans

It's Sophie's choice for many South Africans who must choose between water and electricity, or food. Dr Tracy Ledger shared the findings in her latest research report with eNCA on…
Local GovtPress release
October 1, 2021

Press Release | Are Basic Services Entrenching Poverty and Inequality?

PRESS RELEASE Johannesburg 01 October 2021 (For Immediate Release) Access to Basic Services: Enabling Progressive Transformation or Entrenching Poverty and Inequality? The Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) has released a…
Energy GovernanceLocal GovtPublicationsReports
September 30, 2021

Short Report | Access to Basic Services

National government has an obligation to intervene on behalf of communities where municipalities, through inefficiency or a lack of commitment to delivery and development goals, fail to provide affordable services.…
Local GovtMultimediaNewswebinars
September 30, 2021

WATCH | Local Government in Crisis: How do communities respond?

This second session of Local Government in Crisis held on 30 September 2021, a webinar series by Tshisimani and MyVoteCounts, explores what tactics communities can and have used when municipalities…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsvideos
September 20, 2021

WATCH | Youth Participation in the Electoral Process

Young people are disengaged from the democratic process. Most of them don't participate in elections, they don’t usually stand as candidates and remain unrepresented in electoral managerial functions. The IEC…
Local GovtNewsOp EdPublications
September 13, 2021

Op ed | Elections 2021 – Unpredictability, instability may cost parties votes

by Thina Nzo It's been five years since the last local government elections were held in 2016. For South Africans, that means its time to go back to the voting…
Local GovtPublicationsReports
September 10, 2021

Whose Power Is It Anyway? | Emthanjeni Local Municipality and Renewable Energy

A report by Thina Nzo. We owed Eskom R106 million. Eskom cut us from the electricity supply for two days during lockdown, when people lost their jobs and there was…
GalleryLocal GovtMultimedia
August 31, 2021

Gallery | eMthanjeni Municipality and Renewable Energy

Images by photographer, Bram Lammers, depict life in and around De Aar and its renewable energy farms. This photo essay was commissioned by PARI's Local Government programme, for a research…
Local GovtOp EdPublications
June 25, 2021

Op Ed | Coalition politics: crux of demolition of political stability, governance in Johannesburg

by Thina Nzo Thina Nzo breaks down why coalition politics in Johannesburg were initially successful, but became less so following ongoing battles and reneging on various agreements, preventing representatives from…
Local GovtMultimediaNews
June 25, 2021

Watch | R26 billion in irregular expenditure

Dr Thina Nzo on Morning Live traces dysfunctionality in municipalities back to a lack of political leadership and oversight: "Accountability needs to be applied; heads need to roll" The state…
Local GovtNewsReports
March 10, 2021

SIU to investigate Mogalakwena Local Municipality

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a proclamation on 5 March 2021 authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate allegations of corruption and maladministration at Mogalakwena Local Municipality in Limpopo. The…
Local GovtNewsOp EdPublications
February 23, 2021

Op Ed | Local government vs communities

Local government vs communities: Reclaiming the people's power through the courts State authority can be challenged, giving civil movements the power to circumvent limitations and failures of state institutions, moving…
EventsLocal GovtNews
January 29, 2021

Tracy Ledger in discussion about the District Development Model

The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) held a discussion on 27 January 2021 with Themba Fosi (COGTA),  Tracy Ledger (PARI) and Louis Scheepers (UWC). The conversation dealt with the…
Local GovtNews
November 3, 2020

Water Rights Webinar Series

On 3 November, Dr Tracy Ledger was a panel member at the Water Rights Webinar Series 3rd session, on Makana Municipality. The series is organised by SERI and the Mail…
EventsLocal GovtMultimediaState Reformwebinars
October 29, 2020

WATCH | Professionalising Local Government Webinar

Professionalising Local Government: Recruitment and Appointments in Municipalities was held jointly by the Local Government and State Reform Programmes. The webinar, on 27 October 2020, featured an impressive panel of…
Local GovtNewswebinars
October 21, 2020

Webinar | Professionalising Local Government

A professional and well-capacitated local government bureaucracy is essential for the delivery of efficient and effective public goods and services to local communities. The recruitment and appointment of municipal administration…
Local GovtNews
September 11, 2020

Local Government Week and S139 Interventions

From Tuesday, 8 to Friday, 11 September, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) hosted a virtual Local Government Week. The programme was aimed at providing an opportunity for national reflection…
Local GovtPublicationsReports
August 26, 2020

End of the Road: A critical review of the local government fiscal framework

A  report by Tracy Ledger and Mahlatse Rampedi.   a financial cul-de-sac that many of the local municipalities and districts have already reached across the whole country, with a few…
Local GovtNewsPress release
August 21, 2020

Press Release | The End Of The Road

The End of the Road: A critical review of the local government fiscal framework A new study on municipal failure in South Africa Press Release   a financial cul-de-sac that…
Local GovtOp EdPublications
July 16, 2020

Patronage and lack of ethics creates a culture of impunity in municipalities

By Dr Thina Nzo Patronage, and its cemented co-existence within the bureaucracy, has become the Achilles heel that contributes to poor financial performance outcomes. This makes troubleshooting budget and treasury…
FeaturedLocal GovtNews
October 22, 2019

Report Review | The Problem of Failing Municipalities

By Adriaan Kruger, Moneyweb, 22 October 2019 A research report by the Public Affairs Research Institute (Pari) on the financial state of South Africa’s municipalities has received very little attention…
FeaturedLocal GovtOp EdPublications
October 7, 2019

Op Ed | We Already Have a Solution to Failing Municipalities: It’s in the fine print

By Tracy Ledger If we have a cleverly designed and detailed piece of constitutional legislation designed specifically to prevent it, why do we have municipalities in total collapse? The short…
Local GovtMultimediaNews
October 7, 2019

Listen | PARI local govt report on 702

On 4 October, journalist Theto Mahlakoana spoke to Joanne Joseph on Radio 702's Afternoon Drive, discussing PARI's latest report, Mind The Gap: Section 139 interventions in theory and in practise.…
FeaturedGovernmentLocal GovtPublicationsReports
October 2, 2019

Mind The Gap: Section 139 interventions in theory and practice

By Tracy Ledger and Mahlatse Rampedi "There are fifteen municipalities that for the last three consecutive years have received either a disclaimer or adverse audit outcome, or have failed to…
Local GovtPublicationsWorking Papers
September 19, 2019

Working Paper | Rents and Repurposing in Two South African Cities

Towards a Typology of City Governance Regimes By Crispian Olver Abstract The systemic nature of corruption in local government needs to be understood it terms of the social and economic…
ConferencesFeaturedLocal GovtNews
September 6, 2019

Dr Tracy Ledger on Good Governance in Post-Apartheid South Africa

What is the state for? Contestations around the definition of ‘good governance’ in post-apartheid South Africa – Tracy Ledger This paper will present findings from ethnographic work undertaken in various…
Local GovtNews
August 9, 2019

Dr Tracy Ledger on Joburg’s Consumer Debt

Joburg’s most cash-strapped residents can look forward to some relief soon, when a plan aimed at helping them and reducing the size of the city’s debtors book is introduced, says…
FeaturedJournal ArticlesLocal GovtPublications
May 27, 2019

Article | Document Wars and the Local Archives: The Case of Mogalakwena Local Municipality

By Joel Pearson ABSTRACT In this article, I explore the flows of official paperwork in the troubled Mogalakwena Local Municipality in the Waterberg District of Limpopo Province from 2009 to…
ConferencesFeaturedLocal GovtNews
March 11, 2019

Research partnership with SALGA: The question of local government

On March 11 and 12, Dr Tracy Ledger and Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi attended the South Local Government Association (SALGA)'s 2nd Local Government Research Colloquium that sought to strengthen SALGA's research…
Local GovtMultimediaNewsSA Politics
September 7, 2018

Listen | The rotten heart of Nelson Mandela Bay

JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZvbW55LmZtJTJGc2hvd3MlMkZtaWQtbW9ybmluZy1zaG93LTcwMiUyRmhvdy10by1zdGVhbC1hLWNpdHklMkZlbWJlZCUyMiUyMHdpZHRoJTNEJTIyMTAwJTI1JTIyJTIwaGVpZ2h0JTNEJTIyMTgwcHglMjIlMjBmcmFtZWJvcmRlciUzRCUyMjAlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZpZnJhbWUlM0U=Crispian Olver spoke to talkshow host Eusebius McKaiser on 5 September about his book about the corruption in Nelson Mandela Bay, "How To Steal a City", published in 2017. Recent…
Local GovtOp EdPublications
May 3, 2018

Op Ed | Cyril Ramaphosa’s New Dawn is Breaking in Mahikeng

By Thokozani J Chilenga President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about a "new dawn" in his state of the nation address earlier this year. Since then, the new dawn has been repeated…
EventsLocal GovtNews
April 18, 2018

Report Launch | A ‘Lily-White’ Town in Transition

We Are Building a City: The Struggle for Self-Sufficiency in Lephalale Local Municipality By Dr Mosa Phadi and Joel Pearson Preface In 2006, Eskom unveiled plans for a new multi-billion…
FeaturedLocal GovtPublicationsReports
April 12, 2018

We Are Building a City: The Struggle for Self-Sufficiency in Lephalale Local Municipality

By Dr Mosa Phadi and Joel Pearson   In 2006, Eskom unveiled plans for a new multi-billion rand mega-project: the construction of the Medupi coal power station in the small…
Local GovtReading GroupState Reform
March 7, 2018

Reading Power and Patronage in an Approach to Local Government in South Africa

    People interested in joining this reading group should please complete this form.  Or go to the WiSER site Hosts: The reading group is jointly hosted by PARI, CUBES…
FeaturedJournal ArticlesLocal GovtNewsNorthern Frontiers
January 24, 2018

Journal of Public Administration reviews Mogalakwena Report

  "... from a perspective that most scholars in the discipline are yet to consider"   In a glowing recognition of PARI’s work, the report Mogalakwena Local Municipality of South…
BooksFeaturedLocal GovtNewsState Capture
October 25, 2017

How to Steal a City: The Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay

PARI researcher and doctoral fellow, Crispian Olver, launched his controversial book, “How to Steal a City: The battle for Nelson Mandela Bay” on October 23. Olver was a government “fixer”…
EventsFeaturedLocal GovtNorthern FrontiersOrganisational Dynamics
September 26, 2017

Report launch: The Mogalakwena Local Municipality This report focuses on the internal institutional dynamics of the troubled Mogalakwena Local Municipality, located in the Waterberg District of Limpopo Province. The report traces in detail how local…
GalleryLocal GovtMediaMultimediaNews
September 26, 2017

Photo Essay: Mogalakwena Municipality

A photo essay on the Mogalakwena Municipality by Leon Sadiki. Part of the PARI project on Mogalakwena Local Municipality.
FeaturedLocal GovtPublicationsReports
September 26, 2017

The Mogalakwena Local Municipality in South Africa

This report focuses on the internal institutional dynamics of the troubled Mogalakwena Local Municipality, located in the Waterberg District of Limpopo Province. The report traces in detail how local party-state…
Local GovtPublicationsState CaptureWorking Papers
November 15, 2016

State capture at a local level – a case study of Nelson Mandela Bay

"This paper is an attempt to reflect on the result of 18 months of work in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, during which I was part of an intervention…
Local GovtPublicationsReports
January 25, 2016

2013/14 Red Zone Municipalities: Municipal Audit Outcomes Unpacked

A report by the Public Affairs Research Institute (University of the Witwatersrand) for the South African Local Government Association
FeaturedGovernmentLocal GovtSA Politics
January 1, 2016

Is this how the ANC lost Nelson Mandela Bay?

An insider has blown the lid on wide-scale corruption syndicates in Nelson Mandela Bay metro. In a recent paper, Crispian Olver who was part of an intervention team dispatched to…