Local government accountability in South Africa : an environmental law reading
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The role of sub-national (local) government is increasingly essential in terms of sustainable development, especially from a global governance perspective. Cities across the world are organised to become sustainable development nuclei based on their increased ascendency in regional and national governance structures. From a South African perspective, municipalities are also seen as increasingly significant in the pursuit of sustainability. Imperative hereto is section 24(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (the Constitution) that guarantees environmentally sustainable development and accordingly places co-responsibility (in terms of section 7(2)) on local government to pursue sustainable development. Basic to the understanding of any responsibility, local government needs to be accountable to the said obligation imposed or in absence thereof to be answerable in terms of the consequences. Accountability has been a longstanding constituent of governance which dates back to the dawn of democratic societies. The notion of accountability has, however, been extensively developed since the original meaning thereof. The present-day understanding thereof includes government’s responsibility and answerability towards its citizens. Central to public accountability are also various sub-classes of accountability feeding into the primary meaning thereof. These modifications of accountability have improved the understanding of the initial concept, that is now central to different systems of democratic governance. Accountability accordingly also fits into the post-constitutional epoch of South Africa. Hence, specific reference is made thereto in the Constitution. Further to the novelty of the research and accountability in the context of governance in South Africa, this research draws the necessary parallels between public accountability and (local) government accountability. The understanding of (local) government accountability is presented in accord with the interrelatedness of local government’s relationship with other spheres of government and also the electorate. The understanding of (local) government accountability accordingly extends the existing research on how (local) government environmental obligations must be interpreted from an vi intergovernmental and intra-governmental perspective, and towards the electorate perspective. Local government framework and sectoral environmental statutory responsibilities are considered to delimit the statutory confines of (local) government accountability in the three dimensions. Pronouncements of local government’s environmental duties are spread among a wide array of statutes, and ignorance of the existence of some of these may cause municipalities not to realise their obligations associated with (local) environmental accountability. This thesis therefore inter alia attempts to understand what (local) environmental accountability entails in the context of prevailing South African environmental law. Constituent hereto consideration is also given to how these environmental responsibilities are assessed to ensure that municipalities are accountable in terms of identified accountability mechanisms. Finally, the notion of local (environmental) accountability in South Africa’s local government sphere in practice is examined with reference to the example of the City of Johannesburg.
- Law