Building Metropolitan Governance in South Africa: Review of the eThekwini City Council Experiences


City Profile:

Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, ranking the second among the most populous urban areas, as well as being the busiest port in SA. With a GDP percapita of US$ 15,575, it forms part of the Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality. The metropolitan land area has 2,292 square kilometers, resulting in a somewhat lower population density of 1,513/km2.




Purshottama Sivanarain Reddy has been in academia since 1980 and is currently Senior Professor in the School of Management, IT, and Governance at the University of Kwazulu in Durban, South Africa. He previously held a study fellowship at the former School of Public Policy of the University of Birmingham, where he researched local government systems and comparative local government. He is a local government specialist and is currently the Project Director of the Working Group on Local Governance and Development of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA) in Brussels. He also serves on the Board of Management representing the African Region. He is also an Alternate Associate Board member of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF). Reddy has been the editor or co-editor of ten books focusing on local governance and development. He is a recognized researcher and currently serves on the editorial/advisory committee of six journals in South Africa, India, Australia, United Kingdom, and United States.






South Africa’s two-tier metropolitan government system was ushered in through the Local Government Transition Act in 1993. The eThekwini Municipality, established in 2000, incorporated the then City of Durban and neighbouring towns and rural areas. It is the only metropolitan council in Kwazulu Natal and the third largest nationally. Challenges include low literacy levels and skills; high unemployment and poverty; poor basic services; rise in HIV/Aids and communicable diseases; decline in economic growth; natural capital loss; unsustainable development practices; inadequate water and energy supply; crime; infrastructural degradation; climate change; and inward looking local government. The Municipality has projected itself as the learning city for its innovative initiatives and creative thinking, specifically in relation to participatory planning, financial management, and environmental sustainability. Innovation has been prioritised and demonstrated by the impressive capacity for good practice nationally and continentally. However, political will is imperative to ensuring greater integration and coordination between diverse systems, processes, and policies. The benefits of metropolitization have yet to be experienced by local communities. Municipal functionaries have to demonstrate a strong passion, patriotism, and decisive leadership in responding to the above-mentioned challenges, and in doing so enhancing the quality of life.