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The appointment of the new local government minister is a cause for optimism. However, Zweli Mkhize needs to recognise that the problems faced by municipalities in SA — which result in poor service delivery and led to 173 municipal service delivery protests in 2017 — are systemic. He needs to understand the entire municipal public resource management and service delivery cycle to understand why these problems arise — and to develop a strategy to fix them. Take water service delivery. Starting at the top of the cycle and drawing on the auditor-general’s most recent audit findings for South African municipalities, we find that 34% of municipalities didn’t assess the condition of their water infrastructure during their needs assessment processes in 2016. This had a knock-on effect on their strategic planning processes, with 45% of municipalities failing to produce water infrastructure maintenance plans. This, in turn, influenced their budgeting processes, with 24% of municipalities not...

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