Improving local-level government accountability - a study of the government's accountability within the land use planning and development context in the Western Cape

Du Plessis, Johannes Petrus (2010-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Public Management and Planning))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis considers the veracity, within the land use planning and development context in the Western Cape, of the claim that South Africa has a constitution that gave us accountable government. The study necessitates consideration of the meaning of terms such as accountability and sustainable planning and development. There is a dearth of South African literature on government accountability. The main focus of the literature from abroad is on elections as a mechanism for achieving government accountability, to the exclusion of other issues and with a distinct disregard for legal questions. Much of the available overseas literature draws on the descriptive models of how democratic accountability should work. The writers seemingly have little interest in moving beyond the descriptive. The available body of literature is static in nature as little theoretical development in the field of government accountability has taken place for decades. This thesis argues that, as a result, the literature from abroad on accountability is of limited value in South African context. Accountability has an important role to play in curbing the abuse of public power and for maintaining conditions of peace and stability. Central concerns with the study are to assess the current measure of government accountability within the stated context and to establish whether the existing system for achieving effective government accountability is adequate. The research commences with thorough literature and law reviews, supplemented by the development of a questionnaire on accountability in the land use planning and development field. The assessment of the current measure of government accountability in the context of land use planning and development is supplemented by the views of people active in that field. Those views are pieced together from the results obtained from questionnaires and personal observations. The findings are that government is presently not regarded as accountable in the field of study. This thesis demonstrates how difficult it is to achieve effective government accountability - in particular, towards the local population - and how ineffective the current accountability mechanisms are for this purpose. It argues that the challenges facing South Africans in this regard are complex and that everyone is required to accept responsibility as the actual agents of accountability, to make accountability work as a personal concern and a matter of individual responsibility. This thesis reflects on the need for new accountability mechanisms and calls for a radical reform of the current approach to government accountability. It inter alia recommends that the reform should involve the establishment of a new structure empowered to enquire into the merits of decisions taken by public authorities. On the basis of this discussion, the thesis concludes by advocating specific steps required to improve government accountability at the local-level within land use planning and development context.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis oorweeg die geldigheid, binne die konteks van grondgebruik beplanning en ontwikkeling in die Wes-Kaap, van die aanspraak dat Suid-Afrika 'n grondwet het wat vir ons 'n verantwoordbare regering gegee het. Dit noodsaak oorweging van die betekenis van uitdrukkings soos verantwoordbaarheid en volhoubare beplanning en ontwikkeling. Bykans doodse stilte heers oor regeringsverantwoordbaarheid in die Suid-Afrikaanse literatuur. In buitelandse literatuur val die klem hoofsaaklik op verkiesings as meganisme om regeringsverantwoordbaarheid te bewerkstellig, met uitsluiting van ander kwessies en 'n besliste verontagsaming van regsvrae. Baie van die beskikbare oorsese literatuur steun op die beskrywende benadering van hoe demokratiese verantwoordbaarheid behoort te werk. Die skrywers het oënskynlik min belang daarin om meer as beskrywend te wees. Die beskikbare literatuur is staties van aard aangesien vir dekades min teoretiese ontwikkeling op die gebied van regeringsverantwoordbaarheid plaasgevind het. Hierdie tesis argumenteer dat, ten gevolge, die buitelandse literatuur oor verantwoordbaarheid van beperkte waarde is in Suid-Afrikaanse konteks. Verantwoordbaarheid het 'n belangrike rol om te vervul in die beperking van misbruik van openbare mag en vir die instandhouding van toestande vir vrede en stabiliteit. Sentraal tot hierdie studie staan pogings om te bepaal wat die huidige stand van regeringsverantwoordbaarheid is binne die vermelde konteks en om vas te stel of die bestaande stelsel vir bereiking van verantwoordbare regering voldoende is. Die navorsing begin met deeglike literatuur en regsresensies, aangevul deur die ontwikkeling van ‘n vraeboog oor verantwoordbaarheid in die veld van grondgebruik beplanning en ontwikkeling. Die huidige stand van regeringsverantwoordbaarheid binne die konteks van grondgebruik beplanning en ontwikkeling is aangevul deur die sienings van persone wat aktief is in daardie veld. Daardie sienings is saamgestel vanuit resultate wat bekom is uit vraeboë en eie waarnemings. Die bevindinge is dat die regering in die algemeen tans nie as verantwoordbaar beskou word nie. Hierdie tesis toon aan hoe moeilik dit is om effektiewe verantwoordbaarheid van die regering te bereik - in die besonder teenoor die plaaslike bevolking - en hoe ontoereikend die huidige meganismes vir hierdie doel is. Dit argumenteer dat die uitdagings wat Suid-Afrika in hierdie verband in die gesig staar, kompleks is en dat van elkeen verwag word om verantwoordelikheid te aanvaar as die werklike agente van verantwoordbaarheid om verantwoordbaarheid as 'n persoonlike aangeleentheid en 'n saak van individuele verantwoordelikheid te laat werk. Hierdie tesis besin oor die behoefte aan nuwe verantwoordbaarheidsmeganismes en bepleit 'n radikale hervorming van die huidige benadering tot verantwoordbaarheid van die regering. Dit word onder andere aanbeveel dat as deel van hervorming 'n nuwe struktuur voorsien moet word wat gemagtig sal wees om ondersoek in te stel na die meriete van die besluite wat deur die publieke owerhede geneem is. Op grond van hierdie bespreking eindig die tesis deur voorspraak te maak vir bepaalde stappe wat nodig is om die regering se verantwoordbaarheid op die plaaslike vlak te verbeter binne die konteks van grondgebruik beplanning en ontwikkeling.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4312
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