Developmental local government enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996and the White Paper on Local Government empower municipalities to be a leading force for development. Municipal authorities have nevertheless been wary of addressing population movements and acknowledging human mobility as a fundamental driver of or response to development. Rather than take a proactive approach that plans for mobility in all of its forms, South African local authorities have typically been unable to address challenges related to migration, including inter-group conflict, economic marginalization, and the inability to access suitable services. Yet failing to meet the very real challenges of domestic and international migration creates the risk of increasing conflict, violence, poverty, and social exclusion in ways that negatively affect all urban residents.
While local authorities and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA)have begun to recognize the importance of mobility for the rights and welfare of all residents, municipalities still face numerous obstacles in creating inclusive and equitable communities. Building on almost a year of original research across South Africa, the following pages outline some of the major issues preventing local government from promoting the wellbeing of all residents and migrants, regardless of nationality or legal status, in South African municipalities.