The transformation of local government in South Africa has resulted in a shift in terms of the approach to community development. The provisions of the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa refer to the establishment of a developmental local government with a mandate to plan and manage the development of its own communities . In this regard, innumerable legislation was promulgated to give effect to the constitutional mandate. Amongst the promulgated legislation is the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 56 of 2000, which requires a municipal council to develop and adopt an integrated development plan for the area of jurisdiction. The main purpose of the integrated development plan of a municipality is to ensure that there is an integrated approach when providing services which must result in the upliftment of the socio-economic status of communities. This research considers how the implementation of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) has an impact upon sustainable service delivery in the rural areas.
The development patterns in South Africa prior to the transformation of local government were based upon the policy environment applicable at that time, which resulted in the rural areas being largely under developed. In simple terms, when considering what goes into the IDP of a municipality, the reality, when it comes to development, cannot be ignored. Access to basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, refuse removal, roads and housing in rural areas is still at a low level when compared to urban areas. The challenges confronting urban communities may not be similar to the challenges facing rural communities. As a result, communities have a critical role to play during the process of developing and approving the IDP as required by legislation.
For a municipality to finally approve the IDP, there must be sufficient community consultation, and this is one of the achievements of the transformation of the local government in South Africa. The development of the IDPs involving communities is done simultaneously with the funding of the plans through an approved budget. Whereas municipalities have complied with the provisions of the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act, 56 of 2003 and the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 32 of 2000, challenges still remain in the provision of basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation, roads, refuse removal and housing. The purpose of this study is to explore, understand and gain insight on how the IDP has an impact upon sustainable services, with specific reference to rural settlements. The findings of this research project are that the development and the implementation of the IDPs did not result in sustainable services within the rural areas of the municipalities in the case study. The implementation of the IDPs was also marred by the level of grant dependency by municipalities, instead of generating their own income through the trading services to fund the identified programmes and projects. The case study considered is Mopani District Municipality (MDM) constituted by five local municipalities, namely Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality (BPM), Greater Giyani Municipality (GGM), Greater Letaba Municipality (GLM), Greater Tzaneen Municipality (GTM) and Maruleng Municipality (MLM).