Municipal Services

Understanding Municipal Services

The South African Constitution states that municipalities have the responsibility to make sure that all citizens are provided with services to satisfy their basic needs. There are various ways in which municipalities can provide them in an affordable manner. It is also important to look at what role ordinary citizens can play to help municipalities decide what services to provide and how they will be provided.

Organisations can participate in many consultation and decision-making processes at local level - for example ward committees, budget consultations, ward meetings, Integrated Development Planning Forums, and so on. Mbombela Local Municipality strives to represent people and fight for their interests and is important for us to understand the level of services that are available, the ways services can be delivered and the choices for how to deliver services that the municipality faces.

Important things to know about municipal services

What is a municipal service?

Municipalities must make sure that people in their areas have at least the basic services they need. There are a large number of services that Mbombela Local Municipality needs to provide, the most important of which are:

These services have a direct and immediate effect on the quality of the lives of the people in that community. For example, if the water that is provided is of a poor quality or refuse is not collected regularly, it will contribute to the creation of unhealthy and unsafe living environments. Poor services can also make it difficult to attract business or industry to an area and will limit job opportunities for residents.

Basic services needed in rural areas may be different from those that urban communities need.

Who is responsible for providing services?

Local government [municipality] is the sphere of government closest to the people, they are elected by citizens to represent them and are responsible to ensure that services are delivered to the community. One way in which municipalities can do this is to provide the service themselves through the use of their own resources - finance, equipment and employees. A municipality may also outsource the provision of a service. In other words, it may choose to hire someone else to deliver the service but it remains the responsibility of the municipality to choose the service provider and to make sure that they deliver the service properly.

Many municipalities, however, are unable to deliver services to residents. This might be because of lack of finances or lack of capacity to provide a good service at an affordable price. Such municipalities should find other ways to ensure that the services are improved and reach the people most in need of them. Some options that they could consider are explained below:

Capacity building

It is possible for a municipality to improve and expand the delivery of services by improving their own ability to do so. By improving a number of skills municipalities may be better able to deliver services effectively and efficiently from inside. Better communication between the municipality and citizens will help council determine the needs of the community and whether they are being met. Improved financial planning will help find the best possible ways to use available funds. Better technical skills will improve delivery of a particular municipal service.


In some cases a municipality can improve the delivery of a service by corporatising it -that is by creating a municipal company that will provide the service. The company belongs to council and is accountable for its performance. Council usually appoints a board to oversee the work of the company management. The company is able to function more independently than a municipal department whilst acting under the overall control and supervision of council. Municipalities have to deliver so many different services that it is not possible to focus on the best way to deliver certain specialised services. By allowing the company some independence they are free to experiment with new techniques and technology and able to provide better services at lower costs.

Municipal service partnerships [MSPs]

There are instances where a municipality might feel that instead of providing the service directly they would rather hire someone else (service provider) to do it. Reasons why a municipality would choose this route are that other municipalities, organisations (NGOs or CBOs) or private companies may have better resources and management skills to provide the service.

Whatever method a municipality chooses it must always be in line with the overall goals of improving the quality of services, extending services to residents who do not have them and providing services at an affordable cost. We will look at the MSPs in more detail later on as there are a number of factors that municipalities need to consider before deciding on one of these options. It is important to provide services that are affordable but municipalities must do so without compromising on its ability to operate and maintain existing services.

Indegent Management - Free Basic Services


The Free Basic Services (FBS) program was adopted in 2000 after Government announced its intent to provide free basic services to the poorest of the poor to enhance the fight against poverty.

The Local Government Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000; states that “A municipality must ensure that all members of the local community have access to at least the minimum level of basic municipal services”

Free Basic Services

The core objective of the programme is vested in section 152 of the South African Constitution which local government has to ensure the provision of services is provided in a sustainable and efficient manner, so that the municipal indigent customers may benefit accordingly.

The funding of the FBS programme comes from the National Treasury (Equitable Share grant) dispensed to municipalities, the municipality is currently providing the following basic services:

Who qualifies for an indigent subsidy?

FBS application procedures

The following are prerequisites that need to accompany the FBS application forms:

All the qualifying indigent applicants are further processed online, subjected to be updated on annual basis.

For further information regarding the Free Basic Services Programme, the following officials can be contacted:

Mbombela Civic Centre at night