Small towns are somewhat complicated. They are between the 300 000 inhabitant mark and the half-million city edge, with patches of tribal, township and urban spatial forms. What makes them peculiar is that they reflect changes in the demographic makeup of talent and local culture. Sometimes they are stuck in a heritage that is fixated at a local pace but trying to attract global talent. Other times they are preoccupied with personality politics over solving and innovating administrative problems at local municipalities. The end result is a sometimes visionary bottom end of the decision making tree, while the leadership slugs through dull and long technical meetings, hearings and actions to inspire political confidence. Or a visionary top end, but an overwhelmed administrative team with a mix of talent, experience and personalities– fragile and volatile. When service delivery is presented as a national government problem, the truth is more local and immediate that reporters and politicians would like to admit.
Service delivery is a logistics problem, more than anything else. The issues above are the primary contributors to a lack of effective logistics management in some small towns. We see it in how trucks move in the town space: swallowing traffic lanes, sucking the life out of the pedestrian space, inspiring more conflict points, and so on. Quite ironically, without effective logistics, households don’t get to live, eat, drink or study as healthcare, foodstuffs, beverages, and books need to be consolidated and distributed. At the end of it all, when neglected, town logistics turns into chaos that is practically a norm. There’s no reasonable argument to assume that national government is responsible for local governance, administration and implementation– especially when each sphere of government employs reasonable adults. Here are some photos of the crisis here in Mahikeng, but I’m certain there are so many neglected examples of crumbling local economies in the face of their globalization.