THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Law and development bulletin - Issue 01
Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR)
February 05, 2013

Download this document
- Acrobat PDF version (13.5MB)
If you do not have the free Acrobat reader on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking here.

The legal duty of local authorities to 'provide'

For the past decade or so the local media has been awash with news concerning the state of 'service delivery' by local authorities across the country. These range from challenges relating to water supply and sanitation in urban areas, to the dilapidated state of infrastructure as roads etc., in rural areas. These concerns have raised questions among the general public, not least the question of the role and capacity of local authorities to dispense of this function. The captivating effect of these news stories has generally been accentuated by public health risks that are associated and aggravated by non-delivery of services, such as the cholera and typhoid outbreaks. The questions (and the debates that ensue from them) have however tended to circumvent the role of the law in addressing some of the service delivery challenges.

Local authorities, both urban councils and rural district councils, have a general legal obligation to provide public services to residents. This obligation is based on two legal premises, namely; a contractual relationship between them and residents, and an administrative obligation imposed on them by law to dispense of service delivery functions as public bodies. They are expected, in doing so, to manage and utilize the public assets that they control (i.e. immovable property, infrastructure (water works, sewage and drainage works etc.), public money (levies, fees) etc.) for the benefit of residents.

The law (viz, the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act) bestows legal authorities to impose tariffs, charges and levies on residents for the provision of specific services. These fees are charged and payable as 'consideration' for the services rendered by local authorities.

Download full document

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.