In sports we don’t require third-tier teams to take on the premier league. It wouldn’t be fair, unless we also enabled them to acquire competitive talent, equipment and playing fields.

Understanding and remedying the shortcomings in municipalities requires a similarly nuanced approach. Hugely unequal investment in different communities was a central pillar of apartheid, and by definition investment has long-run impacts. As a result, effective efforts to upgrade local government must address the persistent deprivation facing some municipalities, rather than blaming everything on the incumbents’ personal shortcomings...

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