There’s a new government in town


South Africa does not only have a government problem. It also has a deep-seated dispensational problem. Despite the praises that have been sung of the country’s Constitution and new dispensation in the past, the reality remains that the current centralist dispensation should not be measured by the intentions of some at the time, but rather by its outcomes.

After all, a tree is known by its fruit. This is how we are now reaping the bitter fruits of the centralist dispensation: dysfunctional municipalities and government departments, failing state enterprises such as Eskom, the crumbling of infrastructure and corruption.

A possible change of government in this year’s election will be a very positive development. Precisely because of this, AfriForum strongly encourages its members and supporters to make an effort to vote for the opposition parties of their choice in the election.

A change of administration is needed

However, AfriForum also realizes that more than a change of government is needed. A change of administration is essential. As long as centralism prevails, it creates the possibility for the deployment of incompetent and corrupt cadres from a central ruling party to every corner of the country. Centralism that fails affects every community negatively and leaves little room for excellent management at a local level.

That is why AfriForum believes that getting rid of centralism is a solution to the country’s crisis. A federal dispensation, where communities can take the future into their own hands and demand powers from below, while certain powers are devolved from above, will offer this solution.

The devolution of power

AfriForum and our sister organisation, Cape Forum, work for the devolution of power from the national government (first sphere of government) to well-functioning provincial (second sphere of government) and local governments (third sphere of government). This includes, among other things, campaigns aimed at the devolution of policing and other powers from the central government to the Western Cape provincial government and municipalities in that province.

If, due to government changes, provincial governments are established elsewhere in the country that are able to carry out the devolved functions successfully, these campaigns can also be extended to other parts of the country in the future. After all, it does not help to devolve powers from one failing sphere of government to another which is an even greater failure.

A de facto fourth sphere of government is needed

Even in cases where significant powers are successfully devolved to provincial and local governments, centrally managed provinces and local governments will also not be optimally in touch with local communities and be able to best serve their interests. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • Provincial governments are still too far removed from local communities. Several of South Africa’s provinces cover a larger geographical area than some countries in the world and as a result it is impossible for a provincial government to be exactly in touch with the needs of each local community. A very strong centralist provincial government will be detrimental to local communities, especially if the government of a province falls under the management of a corrupt and incompetent ruling party.
  • Local governments are no longer local. In 2000, the new municipal dispensation established local governments covering large areas and merging several towns into one government and into one governance structure. This was done despite the fact that villages’ circumstances and needs may differ. In metro councils, local communities that are geographically distant from each other are managed by people who are not directly in touch with the specific circumstances of each specific community.

Organized communities become de facto a fourth sphere of government

Consequently, there is a need for a fourth sphere of government that enables local and cultural communities to use their own expertise, drive and understanding of their own community’s needs for the benefit of their community. In practice, this does not come about through the “official” devolution of power, but through organized communities that create practical do-it-yourself realities at ground level to build community federalism from the bottom up.

We must therefore appropriate the right for ourselves to manage our communities ourselves – as far as is practically possible.

AfriForum and our sister organizations in the Solidarity Movement have already made good progress in bringing about a de facto dispensational change in this way without waiting idly for any handouts from the centralist ANC government.

Our Movement has already helped to create new realities with a #OnsSalSelf mindset. This was done with the establishment of numerous sustainable, strong and independent local and cultural community institutions such as Akademia, Sol-Tech, the School Support Center (SOS), Solidarity Helpende Hand, RNews, Solidarity’s professional networks and the FAK’s cultural network. Also, AfriForum’s 168 local branches and 169 neighborhood and farm guards and other organized local communities have already done a lot of work to establish a de facto fourth sphere of government which in practice looks after communities’ interests.

Accelerated establishment of organized communities as de facto sphere of government

This process can be accelerated by:

  • independent community institutions at grassroots level urgently develop their executive capacity further to be able to manage their communities themselves in as many areas as possible. Existing initiatives of AfriForum’s local structures (including the establishment and strengthening of neighborhood watches, rubbish removal, repair of roads, recycling and clean-up initiatives, water supply emergency plans, the ability to manage sewage works and power supply plans) are all examples of communities that already de facto have the role as took upon themselves fourth sphere of government.
  • organized communities and community institutions, where possible, seek to enter into cooperation agreements with local governments. Agreements of this nature will make it easier to carry out service delivery actions themselves without opposition and in some cases play a supporting role in helping the local governments to improve communities. AfriForum’s local structures are currently busy finalizing several such agreements, including with the Tshwane metro council. Such agreements are not a prerequisite for communities to take their future into their own hands, but can facilitate it.
  • AfriForum’s local structures must further expand the role of organized communities as the de facto fourth sphere of government. This can be done by establishing community forums in collaboration with other community institutions within which the respective community institutions can work together. This cooperation can strengthen community organizations’ role as de facto fourth sphere of government as part of the Solidarity Movement’s anchor community strategy.

We will ourselves!

The move to realize that we are, with the grace of God, more than capable of taking our future into our own hands and making ourselves as state-resistant as possible, is a liberating thought that can give new hope to our people. Let’s each take up our calling and use the mind and the hands that the Lord has given us at the end of our own arms to help build a better present and future for us, our communities and our descendants. #OnsSalSelf