Municipal partnerships help create better conditions to deal with Covid-19 in South Africa

Lessons and methods learnt from Municipal Partnerships are valuable in the ongoing Corona crisis. J.B Marks municipality in South Africa is an example of this. Through their partnership with Växjö municipality in Sweden, they have gained tools to cooperate between political opposition and the majority during a crisis. These tools enabled a quick response to reduce the spreading of the Covid-19.

It is mainly the methods learnt from the “Politician Project: Leadership, coalitions & voters” that have proven to be valuable in the ongoing crisis. The project focused, among other things, on methods for information dissemination and dialogue with local residents, as well as increased dialogue across political boundaries.

– J.B Marks Municipality has appointed a “Disaster Management Task Team” that meets every day where opposition parties also participate, says Maja Debeljak, Institute for local and regional Democracy in Växjö, and project manager for the ”Politician Project”.

Thabiso Mono, Community Liaison Officer at J.B Marks who participated in the project, describes how J.B Marks was inspired by how the Swedish politicians work together regardless of their political affiliation to solve crises and problems. This is something J.B Marks now practices when dealing with the new corona virus. In a municipal partnership, a steering group of politicians from both the majority and opposition needs to be linked to the projects to ensure anchoring and long-term perspective.

Team members of the partnership between Växjö Region Kronoberg Sweden and J.B Marks Municipality in South Africa. Photo: Region Kronoberg

Furthermore the internal communication has improved:
The Communication tools that we have learned from the partnership are helping a lot in this situation like communicating internally through notice boards, emails and through small departmental meetings, says Thabiso Mono.

Team members in the municipal partnership project: ”Politician Project: Leadership, coalitions & voters” between Region Kronoberg Sweden and J.B Marks Municipality in South Africa. Photo: Region Kronoberg.

About the Municipal partnership Växjö – JB Marks

The partnership between Växjö municipality and J.B Marks municipality started as early as 2005 and has since completed 42 projects and inception studies (development projects) within the partnership. The lessons Thabiso describe are mainly results from the project carried out in 2015–2017 called “Politician Project: Leadership, coalitions & voters” between Region Kronoberg and J.B Marks Municipality, when a total of 21 politicians from 11 different political parties in Sweden and South Africa participated. The project focused, among other things, on methods for information dissemination and dialogue with local residents, as well as increased dialogue across political boundaries. The project enabled communication between political parties, even in more informal contexts. A participant evaluation conducted within the partnership emphasised lessons learned about collaborating around issues of common interests, even in difficult times.