Deepening democracy and enhancing multi-level governance: deficiencies of and prospects for local government ward committees in South Africa


Intergovernmental Relations
Local Government
Public Participation


The South African local government system has a number of shortcomings, two of which relate to the role of local government in the deepening of participatory democracy and the position of local government in a system of multi-level governance. In this article, it will be posited that a lack of depth and quality in local democracy compromises the system of intergovernmental relations. Against this background, views on participatory democracy as a theoretical background will be investigated and the development and deficiencies of the ward committee system considered.

In order to contextualise the mechanism of local participation, selected international examples of public participation will be considered and an indication of the negative and positive aspects of these cases given. The South African system of intergovernmental relations will be investigated in order to show the importance of local government and public participation therein. Thereafter, suggestions will be made regarding the improvement of public participation in local government in order to adhere to the requirements of democracy and, as a result, to enhance and legitimise the system of intergovernmental relations.

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