SA has 257 municipalities. As anyone who has travelled across the country will know, they vary tremendously. But what may be missed is that they have been designed to amalgamate vastly different communities to share common points of commercial activity. Reducing the number of municipalities and expanding municipal boundaries was therefore a fundamental component of the democratic project to desegregate local government and share resources more equitably between communities. This project — however necessary — still has a considerable way to go in reversing the stubbornly profound footprint of apartheid spatial planning. Nowhere are the challenges arising from this more apparent than when looking at local government through the lens of its 4,393 wards. While municipal averages still reveal sharp distinctions in municipal performance, especially between urban areas and former homeland and rural areas, there is somewhat of a smoothing result that can disguise the stark differences withi...

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