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The true South Africa is a united nation of nine provinces offering vast diversity in both its tourism destinations and investment opportunities.Five years of decentralized government has seen each province focused on developing locally and nationally, bringing economic and social benefits for all.

A shared vision for growth places political power in the hands of local communities.

During Nelson Mandela's five-year term as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the country faced the scars of its past and began a successful healing process that focused on forging a single national identity. When President Thabo Mbeki came to power in 1999, he extended this further to include the economic realm and shifted the country’s focus from reconciliation to transformation. Realizing that full recovery was dependent upon bringing economic power to the country’s black majority after decades of marginalization, he promised to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth through greater government involvement in the economy.
At the time of South Africa’s first nonracial elections in 1994, only 50 percent of the country had access to electricity, and access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation were problems for many areas. “Parts of the country were historically neglected, especially in the rural areas and the former black areas in the urban centers,” comments Fholisani Sydney Mufamadi, Minister of the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG). “As a result there are sizeable infrastructure backlogs in these areas. Now we have a plan to increase the pace at which that backlog is redressed.”

Minister of Provincial & Local Government

Employing what Mr. Mufamadi terms ‘a shared vision for accelerating growth’, the authorities have drawn up a comprehensive plan for strong government presence throughout the nine provinces and 284 municipalities. The plan aims to boost basic infrastructure services, including universal access to clean water and proper sanitation by 2010 and to electricity by 2012. In addition to providing opportunities for private sector involvement and creating jobs, this system also places political power in the hands of local communities that have long been denied direct involvement in the democratic process.

“Our system of local government is new. We introduced it in December of 2000 so it is only five years old,” explains Mr. Mufamadi. He says that it took some time to put the administrative systems in place to ensure that people who were historically alienated from government processes were able to participate for the first time in municipal government. His department’s 2005-2010 strategy is focused on capacity building and includes programs such as Project Consolidate, a two-year support program for local governments. “We need to make sure that municipalities develop the necessary capacity to implement huge budgets, to draw up local economic development plans and to manage programs.”

Through strengthening South Africa’s diverse regions, the government is hoping to reduce rural poverty and to counter the urban drain that has resulted in six cities producing nearly 45% of the country’s economic product. Through its Municipal Infrastructure Grant, DPLG will oversee $2.5 billion in infrastructure development funds throughout the next few years that is intended not only for social infrastructure but also economic development.

President Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki has brought national pride and international praise.

“The is the first year that we have been operating with the grant. The idea is that when we invest in infrastructure it is firstly to address poverty, but it is also to foster economic growth,” says Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela, DPLG’s Director General. “As we cannot provide all the resources to fund economic development, we will be looking for opportunities to create public-private partnerships.”


This regional focus also forms part of South Africa’s preparations for its hosting of the 2010 soccer World Cup. Infrastructure development for the games will be spread throughout the country, according to Mr. Mufamadi, who adds, “Our intention is to give people around the country as much opportunity as possible to benefit from this event. There will be about 64 games so that is enough to be shared by all the provinces.”