There is a common complaint in South Africa, “We are great at planning, policy and legislation, but poor on implementation”.  I’m not sure this is true. If we develop plans, policies and legislation that cannot be implemented, then does this not make it a poor plan or policy?

In any event, our constitutional democracy has created three independent spheres of government – national, provincial and local. These all have areas of exclusive competence (direct mandates) as well as some instances of shared competencies (shared or overlapping mandates). “Building a Capable State”, by Ian Palmer, Sue Parnell and Nishendra Moodley provides a historical perspective on how and why our constitution emerged at it did. It is worth a read.

This system, for all its benefits, has also created a huge challenge when it comes aligning planning, budgeting and implementation. The reason for this is that sector functions (such as water, energy and transport) are split across the three spheres of government (and in some instances various state owned companies and other entities). This split is designed to fit with mandates, but in reality makes it extremely difficult to ensure aligned and targeted action within any one sector.

Understanding which spheres or entities are responsible for which parts of a sector or system is crucial when developing implementation strategies (and indeed for any planning or policy). To help chart and unpack this, and in the interests of strengthening planning, MCA (thanks to work undertaken by Rebecca Cameron) has started developing institutional maps for key sectors. These are available in the attached PDF (Insitutions and Stakeholders).

We invite you to download and share these (but please do reference the source). These are a work in progress, so if you come across aspects which are incorrect, have changed or otherwise need clarity, please let us know by sending at email to