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"The Challenges of Deepening Democracy in Post-Apartheid South Africa”. Professor Chris Tapscott University of the Western Cape Cape Town South Africa.

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the challenges of deepening democracy in post apartheid south africa
"The Challenges of Deepening Democracy in Post-Apartheid South Africa”

Professor Chris Tapscott

University of the Western Cape

Cape Town

South Africa


The Challenges- Unlike many developing nations South Africa has moved beyond political rhetoric in decentralising authority to the local level.- It has conformed to international best practice.- However, despite an enabling political and legal framework, local government is failing to meet expectations, politically or in terms of service delivery.


Structure of the Apartheid state-Based on 1910 Constitution.- Three levels of government: National, Provincial, Local (municipal)- Deconcentrated rather than decentralised authority.- Local authority had no originating powers and limited responsibility.


- Participation in democratic process restricted to the white population.- Majority had no understanding of citizenship due to their exclusion.- Apartheid state:- hierarchical- minority focused- not politically accountable

State Structure After Apartheid

- 1996 Constitution confirmed three Levels national, provincial, local

- Extensive reform, all political and Administrative boundaries redrawn.

9 new provinces.

- Local government assigned more extensive powers.

- Local government: metropolitan, district, local


Local Government in Transition

  • Since 1994, local government in constant transition.
  • Initial delimitation 800 municipalities
  • 1998 delimitation reduced to 283.
  • Instability has aggravated administrative shortcomings

Problems of Administrative Transition- Publicofficials either had experience of apartheid administration or none.- Sophisticated policies but limited capacity to implement.- Training, but much focused on strategic thinking, project management etc.- Little focus on the context of training or on routine administrative systems and practice.- Bureaucracy only partially transformed. Limited skills, institutional memory of the past, poor work ethic, arrogance


A Failure to Deliver- A failure to provide water, housing or to stimulate job creation.- Auditor General`s Report 2006, a third of municipalities had qualified audits.- Problem ofsymmetrical devolution of authority, capacity of some better than others.- Tasks assignedtoo big, expectations too high in the time available.


Local Politics and the Limits of Local Trust

  • Electoral system does not assist building relations between local politicians and electorate: 50-50 proportional-elected split
  • Encourages local politicians to report upward to political leadership rather than to electorate.
  • Little contact with local consitutencies.
  • Survey: only 14% knew name of councillors..

Lack of Accountability

  • Local councillors guilty of patronage, clientilism and corruption.
  • Intervention of local politicians in municipal administrative matters.
  • The Constitution does not permit higher levels of government to Intervene unless it is a matter of national importance.

State Commitment to Participatory Democracy

“Municipalities must adopt inclusive approaches to fostering community participation, including strategies aimed at removing obstacles to, and actively encouraging, the participation of marginalised groups in the local community.”

1998 White Paper on Local Government


public rejection of participatory processes
Public Rejection of Participatory Processes
  • Despite for formal processes for public participation (ward committees, public hearings), there is widespread anger at the failure of local government.
  • Local politicians seen as self-serving and unaccountable.
  • Public cynicism.

“Local councillors only use us a ladder to higher positions. During election time, they canvass our support and promise us everything, but once that is over they desert us”

Protester,Khayalistha July 2005

mass protest
Mass Protest

- People have rejected formal channels for participation in local government and have adopted methods of engagement with the state reminiscent of the anti-Apartheid struggle.

- Protest, sometimes violent, is seen as the only way of gaining the attention of the state.


“Residents told us that for them to be heard they had to toyi-toyi (protest) to receive attention from the provincial and national government.”Anna Buthelezi, Chairperson, Free State Portfolio Committee on Local Lovernment. Mail and Guardian, 1-7 October 2004


“We are not protesting because we like it; we protest because we’ve been living in appalling conditions for years. It also seems that protest is the only language that is understood by government officials.”

Khayalitsha protester

Cape Argus, 12 July 2005


Mass protest is a manifestation of community frustration with the pace and scale of service delivery and employment creation, as well as a rejection of channels established for public participation. It also represents a profound loss of trust and confidence in local government as a whole.


“How much confidence do you have in the following structures?”The Washington Post, et al. (2004) “Survey of South African at Ten Years of Democracy”, Table 2.1


“How would you rate the overall performance of the following structures?”The Washington Post, et al. (2004) “Survey of South African at Ten Years of Democracy”, Table 2.8


- In a seeming paradox, people trustlocal government, supposedly the foundation of democracy, the least of all three tiers of government.- National poll 64% vs local 48%- Despite public dissatisfaction, people still vote for the ruling party due to the indentity politics

lessons from the south africa
Lessons from the South Africa
  • Still too soon to proclaim local democracy a failure.
  • Decentralised of authority is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for building local democracy.
  • Decentralised administration does not guarantee delivery of local services.
  • A loss of public trust in local government leads to non-compliance and protest which impedes development.
lessons continued
Lessons continued
  • Deepening of democracy(and in other developing countries) will take far longer than anticipated by either nationals themselves or the international community.
  • The process Is likely to be uneven and often discontinous.