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Background to the North West Province

North West province is one of nine provinces in South Africa. It comprises 4 new district municipalities and 21 local municipalities. It is located north-west of Gauteng, bordering the Northern Province, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Botswana. It has a total area of 116 320 km² (roughly 9% of South Africa) and population of 3.4 million (8% of the national total). Some 60% of the population reside in rural areas.

It is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. The provincial gross geographic product (GGP) R 3 964 per person is well below the national average of R 6 498. The Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, is above 0.6 in the province, placing the province among the most unequal regions in the world. Only 27% of households in the province have access to safe drinking water. The estimated unemployment rate is 39%, slightly higher than the average in South Africa. The unemployment rate among women is above 50%. Some 30% of the adult population are illiterate.

Mining forms the back bone of the provincial economy, contributing 42% to the GDP and 39% to the employment. The sector is dominated by large platinum group metal mines and refineries in the Brits/Rustenburg corridor with Gold mines in the Klerksdorp/Orkney/Hartebeestfontein/Stilfontein (KOSH) corridor. Agriculture is the second most important sector, with 13% of the GDP and 18% of employment. Tourism is widely considered to have a major growth potential as the province is conveniently located next to the South African population centre in Gauteng.

The population and industrial centres include Rustenburg, Brits and Ga-Rangkuwa in the eastern region of the province. Mafikeng is the provincial capital and the seat of provincial government. It was also the previous governing centre of Bechuanaland protectorate, and later the administrative centre of Bophutatswana home land. Other major towns include Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp.

The present status of land tenure is complex and sometimes uncertain. Majority of land is privately owned, some 10% state-owned, and large areas are under tribal administration, particularly in the traditional homeland areas of eastern, central and Bophirima regions.

The recent (and in reality still on-going) local government restructuring which has reduced the number of districts and local municipalities has amalgamated the historically advantaged predominantly white municipalities with surrounding and/or nearby poor predominantly black areas, many of which were earlier homeland areas. This amalgamation is further complicated by the existence and still rather strong political influence of tribal authorities in many parts of the province. Tribal authorities are, in many cases, uncertain of their political, developmental and economic role in the new dispensation.

The province comprises four major ecological zones: (i) highveld in the south-east, (ii) bushveld in the north-east, (iii) middleveld as a narrow zone between highveld and bushveld, and (iv) Kalahari desert in west as a continuation of the middleveld.

The climate of the province has well-defined seasons with hot summers and cool sunny winters. The weather is usually dry with a short rainy season from October to March. The province almost entirely malaria free.


Governmental Challenges

The Government of South Africa is divided in three democratically elected spheres: (i) central/national, (ii) provincial and (iii) local municipal. The provincial and local level policies are guided by the national policies and legislation. However, the Constitution allows provinces to establish provincial legislation, and the local governments to enact by-laws.

NORTHWEST – EIP5 of 64 Pages

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