Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Poverty alleviation in South Africa councils

29 September 2020

One of the key achievements of a CLGF poverty reduction initiative in South Africa was the mobilisation of almost £800,000 by a local authority from the private sector. 


This was one of the findings of the South Africa Extended Project Steering Committee, established to review the project’s implementation and progress. With Phase 2 of the three-year Reducing Poverty through LED Project project coming to an end, the Committee, which was convened at the end of September 2020, also served to share achievements, challenges and lessons learned by the two target councils, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and South African Local Government Association (SALGA).


Private sector and community collaboration

Madibeng local authority recognised the importance of securing private sector funds to support project implementation, as they cannot be solely funded by councils or donors alone. Ms Johanna Motswatswe, a manager at Madibeng, explained that another positive feature of the work was the selection of projects through meaningful stakeholder engagement. “This is particularly important” she said, “as the successful implementation of local economic development - the Small Town Regeneration Programme - is centred on councils collaborating with the private sector, community, non-government organisations and other spheres of government.


The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was cited as a major challenge by both Madibeng Local Municipality and the City of Matlosana. The pandemic, together with the national lockdown restrictions, currently being implemented to curb the spread of the virus, has had a devastating impact on South Africa’s economy. The publication, Statistics South Africa (2020) has reported that South Africa’s economy suffered a significant contraction, with GDP falling by over 16% between the first and second quarters of 2020. Although the restrictions are slowly being lifted and infection rates stabilising, the impact of the pandemic is currently being felt by many in South Africa, with the unemployment rate rising sharply to over 30%. There is also still much uncertainty because of the fear of a second wave of the pandemic, which would see restrictions being reinstated.


Informal sectors

Mr Lucky Fourie, a director from the City of Matlosana, said: “There is a great need to change policies and adopt programmes to boost the economy, particularly the informal sector, as it is comprised of the most vulnerable people in society”. Municipalities were urgently calling for increased support for the informal sector. The pandemic has also negatively affected SMMEs and the mining sector, as non-essential industries were forced to shut down, or operate at a limited scale, due to lockdown restrictions. This is particularly challenging for councils like Madibeng and Matlosana, whose economies are dependent on mining.



Programme Manager at the South Africa Local Government Association (SALGA) Mr Mxolisi Mchunu, highlighted the importance of agility and adapting to the changes in the economy arising from the pandemic. He described how the framework of the Reducing Poverty through LED project had been adjusted, to help the economic stimulation of additional municipalities. 


In closing, CLGF Programme Manager Ms Nyasha Simbanegavi thanked everyone for a successful collaboration and for the commitment and energy. She said: "We are very grateful to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (formerly DFID) for their financial support and I would like to state how much CLGF values our partnership with COGTA and SALGA. CLGF aims to continue working with local government to respond to the needs of our members at this difficult time.”


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