Reviewing local economic development (LED) projects: the case of Mogale city local municipality (MCLM)
Machete, Ngaka Joseph
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Local Economic Development (LED) literature has shown that a focus on local economic development at a local government level is one of the best ways to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The responsibility of coordinating LED initiatives in order to address these challenges is, in accord with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996), the responsibility of municipalities. This study highlights the changes that LED projects had on the communities in Mogale City Local Municipality (MCLM), West Rand District Municipality (WRDM), in the Gauteng Province. According to the qualitative approach, a questionnaire was used to collect data from respondents. Research findings mostly confirm what other researchers have already stated, such as the role-played by the educational level of beneficiaries in the successes of LED projects. A key finding of this research is that not all project beneficiaries had high school educational qualifications: only one person, the manager of the Food gardening project, had a grade 10 qualification. Another significant finding reveals that both projects did not keep accounting records and did not use the services of an independent auditor to audit their projects. The main aim of the study was to review the LED projects of MCLM in order to establish whether they were being implemented in an effective and efficient manner. Most members in these projects were women, with only one man in the Food Security Project assisting with the hard-core labour (digging of trenches) and two men in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) project. The EPWP project had been in place for one year, but was on the verge of collapse because members were not being paid a stipend, in contrast to their Food Security counterparts. The researcher as a lack of patience and perseverance interpreted members’ lack of commitment to the EPWP project. Members of the Food Security project, in contrast, stuck to their project despite the fact that it was not yielding results. They did not see the project as a get-rich-quick scheme and worked tirelessly, in the hope that in time the municipality would pay them stipends of market value. MCLM’s LED strategy is a good example of what national policy envisages, since it was drafted in consultation with the community as a key stakeholder and focuses on real community issues. The study draws upon academic journals and literature that examine the origin of LED projects’ implementation at local municipal level worldwide and provides a historical perspective on LED projects and initiatives internationally. The study also provides a South African LED perspective of the pre and post-apartheid era. The researcher suggests that further in-depth research be conducted on factors that lead to LED projects collapsing instead of sustaining themselves, as well as LED projects’ capacity to create employment and be financially and economically viable.