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Contextualising public protest : the case of Khayelitsha

Mchunu, Ntuthuko ; Theron, Francois (2013-06)

The original publication is available at :

Mchuni, N. & Theron, F. 2013. Contextualising public protests. The case of Khayelitsha. Administratio Publica, 21(2):105-128.


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 demographic right, provided for in the Constitution (1996), the persistence of protests and violent nature at municiapl level are a cause for concern. The associated violence often leads to the destruction of both pbulic and proivate property, disrupetion in economic activities, loss of lives and severe injuries to innocent victims. Public protest continues despite the fact that the democratic dispensation ushered in a paradigm geared for transforming local government into a democratic and autonomous sphere of government, with a broad developmental mandate. The new dispensation introduced the "invited spaces" (Integrated Development Plans and Ward Committees) of participation to facilitate authentic and empowering public participation at a municipal level. The study sought to determine the extent to which the perceived lack of authentic and empowering public participation through the invited spaces contributes to public protests in Khayelitsha. The study indicates that the invited spaces of participation does not instil a sense of trust among the general public with regards to local government's political will and ability to deliver a developmental local government. The study also indicates that lack of authentication and empowering public participation opportunities in the decision-making processess alienates the public and leads to public disenagement from the invited spaces of participation. It is 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.

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