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The municipal decay in South Africa is visible everywhere, and according to an expert in the field of agriculture and food security, dr. Caryn Abrahams, the lack of accountability has spread its unhealthy roots far and wide. She advises that national government must curb the rot.

Why have some municipalities collapsed and how does this affect agricultural production?

Dr. Abrahams is of the opinion that economically driven industries such as agriculture do not have to pay for a lack of basic service delivery in communities.

"While there are contributing factors, the blame can be placed squarely on the mismanagement of funds at the municipal level."

"We must name problems and call a spade a spade - this includes uncovering corruption. We have unethical, irresponsible leadership at the municipal level where they see the municipality as a place to enrich themselves from the funds that are supposed to be dedicated to specific projects. As such, it becomes a point where looting, corruption and mismanagement of funds is crippling. This is why we see that a large percentage of municipalities are not functional, which has led to them being placed under administration."

Farmers often jump in to fix roads and "patch" potholes. Should the state step in and offer rebates?

"I think across the country we've seen groups of community members, including farmers, get involved in repairing infrastructure as a result of poor services. However, I am not sure if the government will ever give something like rebates, or reduce rates and taxes, because it is cash from communities that the municipalities get, and subsidizing it will be quite difficult.

It will also mean that there must be some sort of rating mechanism in place to acknowledge what is being done. When farmers help, it is usually out of democratic citizenship. They are not doing this on behalf of the municipality, but rather to improve their environment."

Who should look after favorable working environments for large and small enterprises within municipalities?

"Municipalities must have inter-governmental relations, in order to attract specific investments and economic development projects. Favorable conditions must exist for agriculture and businesses to encourage investment from these resorts.

A municipality cannot make decisions on behalf of businesses, but a municipality must ensure service delivery. If this is not done, the result is that businesses and factories move to other municipalities, where their needs are taken care of. An example is where Clover left Lichtenburg. The provincial and national authorities should have gotten involved."

Is there a political will to address the decay of municipalities?

"I think the politics in constituencies influence the will to address the decline of municipalities. I think the politics of provincial systems in our country is influenced by the specific political considerations of the ruling party at the local and provincial level."

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