The role of external government communication on service delivery at Mangaung Local Municipality
Government’s mandate (national, provincial, and local government) requires that its communication on issues of service delivery should enhance access to information that enables the public to participate in the country’s transformation and in bettering their own lives and implementation of people–centred programmes. The primary objective of this study was to assess and determine the role of external government communication on service delivery at the Mangaung Local Municipality in the Free State. In this process, the researcher looked at trends in government communication, especially focusing on local government or municipalities. The secondary objectives was to provide an overview of the concept of local government communication, to establish and analyse the factors that contribute to the gap between local government communication and service delivery, to demonstrate how managing communication in local government can assist in service delivery and to offer a conclusion and recommendations, drawn from the attained results, regarding the role of external government communication on service delivery at the Mangaung Local Municipality, as well as any other problems hampering effective external local government communication. This assessment was prompted by the service delivery protests in certain areas in our country, including the Mangaung municipal area – and the origin of the increased momentum cannot be pinpointed. The culture of these protests in South Africa is not uncommon, because it is this very phenomenon that has delivered the country into democracy. However, the consequence, in the form of unavoidable violent incidents, is mostly regrettable. These service delivery stand–offs by communities have continued to occur – even during the current dispensation (the post–apartheid government), orchestrated by various factors. Although these factors have ranged from the locality of the municipality; related to a third force; political infighting, etc. the lack of communication to communities by local councillors, to keep their constituencies informed, is relevant for this study. To assess the problem, a literature study and empirical research were undertaken. The comprehensive literature study focused on issues of local government communication and service delivery. The following literature sources were consulted to ensure a broad and balanced review of secondary and primary sources of literature on the problem under review: textbooks; journals; magazines and newspapers; master’s dissertations and doctoral theses; Internet sources; Government Communication policy document, workshop reports, plans of action, and other documents published by the South African Government used to identify specific guidelines and prescriptions for general government communication. These documents include the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the Municipal Systems Act (32/2000), and the Government Communication and Information Services’ (GCIS) government communicator’s handbook. The empirical research obtained the required information from people in the Mangaung municipal area, who pay municipal bills at the municipal pay points and who buy electricity at vending machines in Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu in the Free State, where this study was conducted. This study showed that local government or municipality is the link between communities and the broader government structure. If local government is able to implement more effective communication, then damage to the reputation and relationships will be minimised if any problem or crisis occurs. Until the late nineteenth century organisations, including local government, only communicated informally with the residents in their areas. However, the twentieth century saw both the organisations and the community becoming larger and more sophisticated with each having an increased impact on each other. What organisations had to do is to start to keep track of the impact on the community and also keep track of the public’s impact on the organisation. The mass media became very powerful, influential and specialised, which means that the person responsible for communication at an organisation or municipality had to have advanced communication skills. It was at this point that organisations, including local government, began to create specialised communication roles, such as Media Relations, Communication Research, Outreach and Community Liaison, and Marketing. All these roles became sub–systems of the organisational system. Local government or municipalities are responsible for the establishment of effective communication channels between themselves and their publics. Some communication channels used by national government with its own publics are good examples that can be adapted by local governments for their own purposes. A few of the local government communication channels includes mayoral izimbizos (now referred to as the Public Participation Programmes) and ward committees. The research findings revealed that external government communication at the Mangaung Local Municipality is a cause of concern and that it impacts negatively on service delivery. Hence, the researcher is of the opinion that serious intervention is needed in order to change and better the situation at this municipality. Recommendations have been made on how the Mangaung Local Municipality can improve its external government communication in order to improve and accelerated service delivery to its communities.