In a world where the state and municipalities act in the best interests of their citizens and communities, civil activism and organisations like OUTA would not be needed. That’s because citizen focussed decisions by those in authority would be rational, and the abuse of funds minimal. Consequently, increases to taxes and levies would be limited and society would be far more prosperous. 

Sadly, ours is not that world, and despite a lot of talk by the political elites about rooting out corruption and maladministration, in all likelihood political power will largely continue to be abused.  The results of the recent local elections require more coalitions between parties to govern our towns and cities, but if previous coalitions are anything to go by, administrative disruptions will abound and positions that control lucrative budgets and municipal spending will be divvied up to keep the peace. Our municipal funds will continue to be abused and misspend in many of the municipalities and metros that were previously in decline, unless of course more civil activism starts happening at local government level. 

The rise of organised civil activism in municipalities is a growing phenomenon and will become more necessary and structured going forward. That’s because it doesn’t really matter who is in power - citizen oversight and participation in municipal management is becoming a necessary and heightened reality in towns and cities countrywide. Without organised and constructive civil activism, we get destruction and the burning of schools, government buildings and other municipal property. We go backwards. 

Unfortunately trust in local government structures is at an all-time low. The new political entities and coalitions would do well to invite residents and community associations along with local business chambers into the fold. We have seen how this approach in ‘progressive municipalities’, produces positive benefits for all stakeholders. Whereas in other towns where the will of the communities is ignored, organised structures are having to “force” their way in and demand access to information that is rightfully theirs to have.

The coming year will see interesting developments within the local government space. However, the turnaround strategies of broken municipalities will take some time to bear fruit, and only if there is a genuine commitment toward inclusive administration of organised civil society structures. 

At OUTA, we spent most of 2021 on the development of new social innovation initiatives. We will shortly launch our new platforms that makes it easy for communities to be organised and more effective, while holding those in power to account for maladministration of municipal funds.

On the national Government front, the past two months have seen at least two successful court challenges by OUTA. In September the Public Protector was ordered to furnish OUTA with records relating to a 2019 report exonerating former Mpumalanga premier, David Mabuza, of procurement irregularities. You can read more about it here.

Earlier in November, the High Court instructed the Services Seta to hand over hidden information that we applied for almost three years ago. You can read more about this story elsewhere in this newsletter. Both these court orders serve as proof that civil activism does work, even if not as fast as we would like it to. So, let’s persevere with our efforts to help change South Africa through activism.   

Wayne Duvenage