The restructuring of local government took place to fulfil the requirements of the Constitution, to ensure that the apartheid local government structures were transformed, and to ensure that there is equity between the past white minority and the black majority. In many instances, before 1994 poor South Africans did not even fall within a sphere of local government or had no access to basic services such as electricity, waste removal or potable water. National laws, including the Municipal Demarcation Act, the Municipal Structures Act and the Municipal Systems Act, were passed to restructure local government and the financing of local government was the subject of laws such as the Municipal Finance Management Act and the Property Rates Act.
But this restructuring also took place in the period in which South Africa was reintegrated into the world at the end of Apartheid. And since the 1980s the world had changed quite significantly as a result of globalisation. So the local government institutions we have today are not only the result of restructuring required by the Constitution, they are also shaped by the way globalisation has changed the local state and installed ideas about service delivery, about the relations between the state and capitalism and about democracy everywhere, including South Africa.
The local state is claimed as the site of government closest to people and often is the one in which ordinary people have the most immediate experience of the nature and quality of democracy.
We therefore examine the impact of globalisation on the local state and the quality of democracy at the local level.
This booklet is for activists. Those of us who are struggling in our communities, homes and workplaces, in campaigns and in programmes of social justice. Those of us concerned with the future of the planet and relations between men and women.
It is also a booklet for anyone interested in the world around us and questioning why wealth and power are so unevenly distributed.
It is not about economics and it does not assume that we need to know anything about what academics and other “experts” call “economics”. In fact all the economists and academics, all the rating agencies and the auditing firms who are quoted so extensively at the universities and in the financial media as experts, have mostly been wrong about the current system. They are also wrong in responding to what they now call “a recession” by calling on us once again to be reasonable, to temper our demands, to make sacrifices and to trust them once again to be the experts who can get us out of the mess – the mess they got us into in the first place.
The booklet assumes only that you regard the economic system as produced by human beings, as a result of choices made by governments and people who have wealth and power ...and that other choices are possible.
This booklet tries to help us understand the system of world capitalism and, particularly, why this system is now threatening our very existence.
Nearly 20 years ago, when South Africans began to look forward to freedom from apartheid, ILRIG began programmes on globalisation because then academics and experts and employers told activists to be more realistic in our demands for a better society, and used the notion of “globalisation” as a stick to discipline us and lower our expectations for the new South Africa. ILRIG produced a series of booklets called An Alternative View of Globalisation to unmask the political agenda behind this celebration of the term globalisation.
With the current crisis in the world we are now launching a new series: Alternatives to Globalisation because the idea that there is an alternative to capitalism is an idea whose time has come.