UFH-based accredited journal contributes to renewal of local government

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Thanks to the leadership of Editor-in-Chief, Professor Ogochukwu Nzewi of the Department of Public Administration at the University of Fort Hare and other members of the editorial board, the Journal of Local Government Research and Innovation (JOLGRI), published in collaboration with AOSIS on an open access platform and accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), is making a mark in the academic arena by providing a forum for multidisciplinary research on local government in South Africa.
The journal was established in January 2020 just as the world was about to be rocked by the Covid-19 pandemic. State President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a three-week lockdown on the 26th of March 2020 and this was followed by the introduction of a package of measures including the recruitment, training and deployment of 28 000 healthcare workers and an economic stimulus package of more than R500 billion, about 10% of South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The stimulus package was aimed at assisting the poor, businesses and, importantly, municipalities as they moved to address the challenges posed by the pandemic.
What is widely perceived as the dysfunction of local government has made headlines in South Africa for many years now with commentators citing capacity and skills deficits as reasons for failures in service delivery. When JOLGRI was established there was no indication that the world was about to witness a period of unprecedented disruption. An editorial written by Professor Nzewi in January 2020, entitled Re-envisioning local government studies, research and practice for the future, reflected on the potential of local government to best adopt practices and foster growth and innovation.
However, as if predicting the near future, the editorial also contemplated the ability of many local governments, given their current state, to manage day to day responsibilities and, at the same time, deal with any crises that might occur. According to United Cities and Local Government, the largest organisation of local and regional governments in the world, local governments in developing nations struggle to attain the momentum needed to innovate and offer alternative services in
many areas including the need to manage spatial development in the context of historical legacies and climate change.
The need for local governments to meet complex challenges and, at the same time, make the most of opportunities for innovation represented an opportunity for a new journal as a forum for research. In 2021, JOLGRI was listed in the Directory for Open Access Journals (DOAJ), an index approved by the Department of Higher Education (DHET) for subsidy purposes. In an editorial entitled ‘Transformative networks and public participation in local government in the post-COVID era’ written in the same year, Professor Nzewi noted how limitations on social contact during the pandemic had affected the way local government, the sphere of government closest to the people, was able to interact with the people it served.
For Professor Nzewi, Covid-19 had forced a ‘hard shift in previously designed public participatory strategies’. JOLGRI is the only accredited South African journal focused on local government research and practice and sees its role as becoming even more urgent in coming years.
In its 2022 editorial entitled ‘Aluta Continua: will it ever end? The reality of local government in practice’, Associate Editor Dr Tando Rulashe, of the Department of Public Administration at UFH, argues that the struggle identified in the rallying call of ‘aluta continua’ cannot last forever. The editorial then goes on to describe JOLGRI as a journal that seeks to become a major player in scholarship and research on local government by developing a number of niche research areas. UFH’s Strategic Plan, Towards a Decade of Renewal, 2022-2026, sets into motion a decade of new beginnings, fresh perspectives and good governance. Arguably, the same kind of renewal is needed in local government in South Africa. However, to re-envision local government as the globe recovers from COVID-19, research must play a role and it is here that JOLGRI has an enormous contribution to make.
As a DHET-accredited journal hosted by UFH, JOLGRI is not only working towards contributing to the University’s decade of renewal but also to the renewal of local government itself by encouraging and disseminating high-quality research.
Source 2021/2022 UFH Research Report