The Fix Our Municipalities Initiative (FOMI) mobilises communities, grassroots organisations, and local civil society into a coordinated, sustained and transformative effort to ensure public participation and oversight over municipal affairs. This is done in order to ensure that municipalities meet their constitutional mandate for service delivery and public goods, local economic development and transformation of apartheid geographies.
We currently work with the Unemployed People’s Movement and the Makana Citizens Front
in the Makana Local Municipality, as well as the Indep
endent Komani Residents’ Association
and the Hewu Rural Community Forum in the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality.
We have also begun work with the Nelson Mandela Bay Water Crisis Committee. We have also undertaken preliminary consultations with more than 20 social justice organisations in the City of Cape Town.
By the end of 2025, this work will reach a total of 7 other strategic municipalities across the country – possibly including the Amathole District, the Bitou Local Municipality, the City of Cape Town, the City of Johannesburg, the eThkwini Metropolitan Municipality, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality and the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.
The last local government elections took place in November 2021. This means that by the end of 2023 there will be 3 years left before the end of the current mandate for all of the 278 municipalities in South Africa (comprising 8 metropolitan, 44 district and 226 local municipalities). Almost all of these municipalities are characterised by systemic and structural crises which result in poor service delivery for the black working class majority, hollowed out democracy as we see in the generalised distrust in the limited public participation system, non-transformative municipal development plans and budgets which reinforce neo-apartheid spatiality and living conditions, corporatisation of service delivery and other municipal functions, widespread corruption, maladministration and mismanagement, and the factionalised use of municipal resources for personal power and accumulation. The Eastern Cape province bears the brunt of the worst of these crises.
The biggest void and absence in this municipal system is organised people’s power that has an effect and impact on how municipalities work. Indeed, there are often regular protests, court cases and other mass activity focused on these crises. There are only a few exceptions where such mass activity has been sustained in impactful ways. These exceptions are often isolated and severely challenged by a lack of several layers of activists and leadership from within the self-organised communities, a lack of research and policy capacity, a limited analysis of the causes of the systemic and structural aspects of the municipal crises, a short-term vision on the required solutions which are often not to a longer-term perspective and strategy for thorough-going transformation, and are often vulnerable to cooption by the dominant neo-liberal discourse that is hegemonic in the state and most of civil society.