23 October 2023


The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) expresses serious concern regarding a parliamentary reply from Minister Maropene Ramokgopa, responsible for Monitoring, Planning, and Evaluation in the Presidency. This reply reveals that 229 (89.1%) of the country’s 257 municipalities are currently facing distress or dysfunction. Among these, 163 (63%) are distressed, while another 66 (25.6%) are dysfunctional. This revelation paints a bleak picture for municipalities, which are entrusted with delivering essential services to residents.

Notably, SAMWU has previously called for increased intervention in municipalities to prevent their collapse, as many are already displaying signs of institutional breakdown. These signs include delayed salary payments to workers, tardy payments to third parties, and a failure to fulfil their constitutional duties towards residents.

For SAMWU, this revelation demands immediate action. Minister Ramokhopa’s disclosure cannot stand alone; we expect comprehensive solutions for this municipal crisis, as municipalities are at the coalface of service delivery. We anticipated that the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the overseeing body for the country’s municipalities, and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the representative body of municipalities, would swiftly take action to address or, at the very least, provide suggestions to halt further municipal deterioration.

As observed, many municipal challenges are financial in nature, stemming from inadequate funding and financial mismanagement. SAMWU consistently calls for a re-evaluation of the municipal funding model as one method to address these financial challenges.

Crucially, municipalities must be thoroughly scrutinised to prevent resource leakages and ensure that municipal resources are directed toward service delivery. Although addressing municipal challenges is not an overnight task, there is an immediate need for municipalities, COGTA, and SALGA to commit to a long-term, solution-oriented process that fosters the political will to enforce good governance and ensure municipal sustainability.

SAMWU has consistently argued that municipalities are the most neglected tier of government, despite being the cornerstone of service delivery. Due to National Treasury’s fiscal consolidation programme, which has resulted in budget cuts for many government departments, municipalities are increasingly compelled to fend for themselves. Unfortunately for many municipalities, the pressure is just too much hence the alarmingly high number of municipalities in distress and dysfunctional.

In the interest of effective service delivery, municipal sustainability, the well-being of residents and workers, SAMWU calls for urgent intervention in the country’s ailing municipalities. The Constitution allows for various ways in which provincial and national governments can intervene in municipalities, but this Constitutional provision has not been effectively used to stabilise municipalities. Instead, it has often been employed to settle political scores at the expense of service delivery. SAMWU calls for meaningful intervention that prioritises service delivery and the sustainability of municipalities.

SAMWU is prepared to collaborate with COGTA and SALGA to develop enduring solutions that can salvage what remains of the country’s municipalities. Our proposed solutions include (i) eradicating fraud and corruption in municipalities, (ii) strengthening municipal governance, (iii) improving municipal revenue collection, (iv) reintegrating municipal services, (v) fostering a culture of paying for services, and (vi) reviewing the municipal funding model.

As municipal workers, we have a vested interest in seeing municipalities capable of delivering high-quality services to residents, we want to see municipal workers getting paid their salaries on time. We firmly believe that our proposals can significantly contribute to revitalising municipalities, making them work for the benefit of residents across the nation.

Issued by SAMWU Secretariat

Dumisane Magagula,
General Secretary
(076 580 4029)


Nkhetheni Muthavhi,
Deputy General Secretary
(082 526 5224)


Papikie Mohale,
National Media Officer
(076 795 8670)