The Department of Cooperative Governance has announced a review of its existing Small Town Regeneration Programme (STR) after ‘varying success’ in rejuvenating smaller towns across the country.
The review will also bring the government’s smaller towns’ strategy in line with the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF), as well as new national initiatives, such as the District Development Model (DDM).
To bring about decisive spatial transformation and simultaneously manage the growing urban population, without neglecting the rural poor, the department said South Africa effectively has three options:
- Invest more in major cities to accommodate migrants and to avoid worsening urban poverty;
- Sustain (or expand) rural investment to provide poor rural households with employment and income opportunities;
- Due to the stronger connections to the rural poor, invest in towns and secondary cities.
In view of the above, the department said it will investigate several issues to bring about ‘decisive spatial transformation’ and ‘regeneration’ in the country’ small towns, including:
- What are the blockages in the regeneration of small towns?
- How can regeneration that is sustainable and progressive towards development in small towns be promoted?
- How can current attempts to regenerate small towns in South Africa be improved?
Smaller town in decline
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has warned of dire consequences if the country fails to fix its local government structures and municipalities.
In a presentation on the Division of Revenue Bill to parliament earlier this month, the country’s largest trade federation slammed the government for being silent on these failures and the impact on the local job market.
“The most alarming part of the Division of Revenue Bill is that it is absolutely silent on the chaos and rampant financial mismanagement, collapse in good governance, and ballooning corruption that has come to characterise the public’s experiences with local government,” it said.
“In 2013, 86 out of the 259 municipalities were in financial problems. In 2019, it had risen to 175. In 2022, according to the Auditor-General, it has risen to 90%. Yet the Bill and Budget are silent on what is the government’s plan to fix this crisis.”
Cosatu warned there are ‘real consequences’ to the government’s failure to fix local government.
“Municipal workers are being sent home unpaid. Roads, water, sanitation, and electricity are deteriorating at an alarming pace. Companies are closing, retrenching, and abandoning entire rural towns.
“Yet it seems our politicians have no idea on what needs to be done. Less than a year after the 2021 local elections, Mangaung Municipality is on the verge of being put under administration.”
Read: This is government’s plan to lift South Africa’s national state of disaster: Dlamini Zuma