Size, efficiency and local democracy in South Africa : a preliminary assessment

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The objectives of this article are to locate the size of South Africa’s metropolitan and local municipalities within an international context; to examine whether local government size has been a factor affecting the performance of local governments and to analyse how South Africa has situated itself within the efficiency–local democracy debate. A number of indicators were used in respect of the different population and geographical sizes of municipalities. The Municipal Demarcation Board created a number of metropolitan and local municipalities which were bigger than its own guidelines. A major reason for this was the belief that larger municipalities are more efficient, promote financial viability and can promote equity. The findings were that larger municipalities do perform better than smaller municipalities, but this is not a consistent trend. There is some evidence that bigger municipalities have led to remoteness. The available evidence suggests that the creation of larger municipalities has not necessarily led to greater efficiency nor has it promoted local democracy.