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Making Popular Participation Real

African and International Experiences

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Edited By György Széll and Dasarath Chetty

The onset of democracy in South Africa provided South Africans with the opportunity to build a truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist society in which there would be opportunity for all to make material, social and intellectual progress. This vision was enshrined in a Constitution intent on deepening democracy by treating people with dignity and ensuring that democratic participation was not restricted to a trip to the voting booth once every five years. To give democracy real meaning, the Constitution declared that municipalities, in particular, must facilitate public participation for true legitimacy in its development endeavours. Various mechanisms have been put in place to achieve this objective, but the process has not been without its impediments and difficulties. This book reviews the context, approaches and challenges to the public participation process using international comparisons.

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The War Room as a Platform for Public Participation: Views from Stakeholders

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Ndwakhulu Tshishonga

Abstract: This article interrogates the War Room as a government created platform for enhancing public participation at Ward level in the eThekwini municipality. In South Africa, the War Room is linked to the ‘War on Poverty’ Campaign which was adopted in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province as part of the Flagship Programme in 2011. Through the War Room various stakeholders assembled to deliberate on community needs and challenges and to channel these needs via created structures. The War Room is an institutionalized space within the ward and serves as a platform whereby various stakeholders (people, public departments, private and civil society sectors) meet to deliberate on issues and challenges besetting the poor and vulnerable people at the ward level. Thus, the author argues that the effective and efficient functioning of War Rooms demand collaborative partnerships from primary, secondary and tertiary stakeholders to have ownership especially in the decision making processes. The article found that the War Room is not only the platform for public and community participation, but also for holding stakeholders especially the government departments accountable. Empirical data for this article was obtained through interviews with ward committee members, ordinary people, public departments, and private and civil society sectors in Wards 24 and 29.

It is undeniable that South Africa, twenty one years into a democracy, has had various avenues introduced and experimented with in engaging its citizens towards building a united and democratic society based in inclusive democratic governance (Camay and Gordon, 2004,...

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