The link between poor public participation and protest : the case of Khayelitsha

Mchunu, Ntuthuko Albert (2012-12)

Thesis (MPA)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The upsurge in the number of public protests in most South African municipalities, including the City of Cape Town, continues unabated. While public protest is a democratic right, provided for in the Constitution (RSA 1996), the violent nature and persistence of protests at municipal level are a cause for concern. The associated violence often leads to the destruction of both public and private property, disruptions in economic activities, loss of lives and severe injuries to innocent victims. The prevalence of public protests continues despite the fact that the new democratic dispensation ushered in a paradigm geared for transforming local government from a racially-segregated institution into a democratic and autonomous sphere of government, with a broad developmental mandate. This new dispensation gave birth to the “invited spaces” of participation, which are aimed at providing scope for the public to influence, direct, control and own the development and decision-making processes. In order to determine factors that contribute to public protests in Khayelitsha the study adopted a qualitative research paradigm. Personal interviews, focus group discussion and participatory observation were some of the research methods used to collect primary data. The study indicates that lack of authentic and empowering public participation opportunities in the decision-making processes of the City of Cape Town alienates the public and leads to public disengagement from available municipal processes. It has been during this period of alienation that the public have been “inventing own spaces” of participation, in the form of public protests demanding that public voices be heard. The study also indicates that poverty, unemployment and glaring gaps of social inequality, reinforced by comparison to available examples in the neighbourhood, are root causes of public protests. The new public participation model that has been developed from this research should be adopted by South African municipalities as an essential public participation strategy. It empowers the public to negotiate a new “social contract” with the authorities primarily based on the public’s terms. It is only when authentic and empowering public participation is practised by municipalities that violent public protests can be minimised. Such authentic and empowering public participation provides latitude for the public to influence, direct, control and even own their “own” development and decision-making processes.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die toename in voorvalle van openbare protes in byna alle Suid-Afrikaanse munisipale gebiede, insluitend die van die Stad Kaapstad, duur onverpoosd voort. Terwyl openbare protes weliswaar ’n demokratiese reg is wat in die Grondwet (RSA 1996) verskans word, is die huidige ingeburgerde en gewelddadige aard daarvan rede tot ernstige kommer. Hierdie gewelddadigheid lei dikwels tot vernietiging van sowel openbare as private eiendom. Ook ekonomiese aktiwiteite word ontwrig; daar is lewensverlies en ernstige beserings aan onskuldige slagoffers . Die hoë voorkoms van openbare protes duur voort, ondanks die feit dat die nuwe demokratiese bestel ’n paradigmaskuif ten gunste van transformasie in die plaaslike regeringstelsel beteken het. Alles was in plek om weg te beweeg van rasgesegregeerde instellings na ’n demokratiese, outonome regeringsfeer met ’n breë, ontwikkelingsgedrewe mandaat. Hierdie nuwe bedeling het “genooide ruimtes” vir deelname geskep, wat geleentheid sou skep om invloed en rigtinggewende beheer te verkry oor daardie prosesse van besluitneming wat deelnemers se eie lewens raak. Om die faktore te bepaal wat tot openbare protes in Khayelitsha bydra, is ’n kwalitatiewe navorsingsparadigma gekies. Persoonlike onderhoud, fokusgroepbespreking en deelnemende waarneming is van die navorsingsmetodes wat ingespan is om primêre data te versamel. Hierdie navorsingstudie het bevind dat, ondanks die “genooide ruimtes”, daar steeds ’n gebrek aan egte en bemagtigende openbare deelnemingsgeleenthede in die besluitnemingsproses van die Stad Kaapstad bestaan, en dat dit die publiek vervreem en daartoe lei dat burgers hul aan die beskikbare deelnemingsgeleenthede onttrek. Gedurende hierdie periode van vervreemding het die publiek van Khayelitsha hulle eie “geskepde ruimtes” ontwikkel. Dit was gegiet in die vorm van openbare protes, waar die stemme van die algemene publiek gehoor kon word. Die studie het ook aangedui dat armoede, werkloosheid en opvallende voorbeelde van sosiale ongelykheid (te vinde in die onmiddellike omgewing) aanleidende faktore vir protesaksie was. Die nuwe openbare deelnemingsmodel wat uit die navorsing ontwikkel is, kan aan alle Suid-Afrikaanse munisipaliteite ’n onontbeerlike geleentheid bied om ’n doeltreffende openbare deelnemingstrategie te ontwikkel. Dit bemagtig die publiek om ’n nuwe onderhandelde “maatskaplike kontrak” met die owerhede, hoofsaaklik op die publiek se terme, te sluit. Slegs wanneer die publiek aan egte, bemagtigende openbare deelname blootgestel word, sal daar sprake van ’n vertrouensverhouding met die owerhede wees en sal gewelddadige protesaksie tot die minimum beperk kan word. Sodanige egte en bemagtigende openbare deelname skep ruimte vir die publiek om hulle “eie” ontwikkeling te beïnvloed en mede-beheer te bekom oor die besluitnemingsprosesse wat daarmee gemoeid is.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/71675
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