Ethnic leadership in the age of disruption: implications for South African municipalities
Keywords:ethnic leadership, corruption, governance, local government, disruption
Municipalities are mandated to follow the principles of democracy, accountability, and good governance. This is evident in the delivery of basic services. Municipalities are directly responsible for ensuring that communities have water, sanitation, and so on, and that community members have a voice that affects their existence. This is, however, not the case in most South African communities, where squalor and sordid conditions prevail. In 2021, it was reported that 64 municipalities were dysfunctional and that the dysfunction was attributed to “poor governance, weak institutional capacity, poor financial management, corruption, and political instability”. A Code of Conduct is available in the South African public sector, governing the behavior and work ethic of public officials, councillors, and the like. Yet corruption and maladministration at the local government level prevail. Therefore, the Local Government Ethical Leadership Initiative was launched in 2020 with the view of devising another code focused on ethical governance in South African local government by October 2023. The research question that this article addresses is centered on whether a new code of conduct is needed and whether the problem with the existing code does not lie with its enforcement or the ethnicity of the public officials in leadership positions and their view on how to conduct business. The article employed a qualitative research approach where secondary sources of information, constituting document analysis, premised around disruption and ethnic leadership as well as the legislative framework in relation to the Code of Conduct governing South African local government in particular and anti-corrupt behavior in general, were explored. Four provinces were purposefully selected to partake in the study. Extracts from the AG’s report formed the locus of the study. It was found that one cannot explicitly say that ethnicity plays a role in how municipalities are governed. However, governance in selected provinces was marred by poor governance practices and inadequate leadership. The Code of Conduct for Public Servants is generally not adhered to. Further research around ethnic leadership in the South African public sector is called for.
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