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Cape Town civic organisations - in search of meaningful participation

Written by Ryan Fester, the Development Action Group's contribution to the 2018 State of Local Governance publication takes the form of an In Profile submission. It reflects on the specific challenges civic organisations face when aiming to effectively engage in participatory processes, and, given these challenges, the strategies and tactics they have resorted to in an effort to hold government accountable. It also briefly proposes a new model of participation for civic organisations.

"The South African White Paper on Local Government (1998) enshrines the principles of participation and democracy as a means to involve communities and civic organisations in the matters of local government. Since the inception of the White Paper in 1998, communities and organisations emerged as partners with local government in influencing policy and meeting key development objectives.
As part of its work with local communities, the Development Action Group (DAG) conducted a city-wide review of developments which were being contested by civic organisations (community representative groups) in Cape Town. The review highlighted that civic organisations were unable to influence development processes and local government policies through traditional participatory mechanisms. Current methods of public participation are accused of lacking transparency and accountability on behalf of local government, and are mere ‘tick-box’ exercises done in order to meet legislative requirements. The perception from civic organisations is that local government imposes but does not engage, resulting in people’s heritage, livelihoods and natural environment being undermined.
This In Profile submission provides a brief overview of the difficulties citizens and civic organisations have in influencing participatory processes, the common tactics used to hold government to account, and how civic organisations are attempting to frame a new model of participation."
Photo: Development Action Group
A full copy of the In Profile submission can be downloaded below. 


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Sharing the common goal of promoting participatory, effective, accountable and pro-poor local governance, the network strives to provide an interface for civil society organisations to network and share information towards strengthening local democracy in South Africa.