What do the director generals of the Western Cape, the chair of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development and Professor Christina Murray of the law faculty have in common? An interest in the practice of governance outside the Constitution, or, to put it simply, the gap between design and practice.
UCT recently hosted a top-level workshop of academics and practitioners in the field of executive and legislative governance. The workshop elicited heated discussion on the on-going question of whether or not our provinces should be retained.
Political analyst from the Johannesburg-based Centre for Policy Studies, Steven Friedman, argued forcefully that as long as provincial politicians have virtually no discretion in policy and spending and while provincial legislatures failed to provide proper representation for citizens of the provinces, they were a profound waste of resources.
Johnny de Lange disagreed. Instead, he argued that there was an inevitable tension between more effective government (which currently means more standard-setting at the centre) and individual discretion and accountability at provincial level. "Currently, the balance towards national norm-setting limited provincial discretion is essential," he said.
The discussions and recommendations will form one chapter of a volume on the subject to be published by the Ottawa-based international NGO, the Forum of Federations.
The South African experience of a multi-level system is one of twelve that is to be examined in depth in this six-part series. A module on the division of powers has already been completed.
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