There are numerous constraints to democratic urban governance in South Africa:

  • Sometimes a department or official is willing to adopt more participatory methods but lacks the know-how to do so successfully. Democratic urban governance is sophisticated and needs advanced skills and attributes which officials or the authorities enforcing policy and regulations tend to lack.
  • People are weary of fruitless participation. Participation is time consuming and often does not address their immediate needs. This calls or a high level of commitment to the process and its eventual outcomes which is hard to foster in the poorer South African communities where people face a daily struggle o put food on the table.
  • In South Africa, the majority of the population was not allowed to be active in civic life prior to 1994. After 1994 people did not understand their civic responsibilities and rights or see the benefit of taking this up when the ANC took control of the government. We therefore lack a history and culture of the participation in governance and people rely instead on their elected representatives to ‘do the right thing.’ Where communities grow impatient and bold enough to challenge the State and claim their rights they tend to be apologetic and struggle to use the institutional means available to them.

Politicians also lack the political will to set up shared decision-making platforms and lead such processes in communities.

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