THE role of local government may appear straightforward. The service-delivery agenda may be clear and adequately funded for the infrastructure delivery programme; however, local economic development (LED) staff are left to their own devices. They have to balance the expectations of their political principals with the realities on the ground. The social and economic-development space is swamped in the state-driven and civil-sector development programme. Government services are keeping the economies of many rural towns alive. We see new settlements along the transport corridors in many rural communities, which present multiple economic opportunities. However, it is not clear whether the municipal LED programme is playing its part in all of this.