Ward committees as mechanism for public participation on local government level : the case of Emfuleni local municipality
Tshabalala, Moji Jacquiline Prudence
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Public participation in affairs of local government is the bedrock of participatory democracy in South Africa. The vehicle for driving it is the system of Ward Committees. Legislation that gives effect to its creation includes the Constitution, the Municipal Structures Act, and the Municipal Systems Act. The role of local government is not only to provide services that promote sustainable living standards but, in doing so, to also ensure that the community of Emfuleni Local Municipality is involved in council strategies and activities that affect the lives of local communities The objective of this study is therefore to assess the effectiveness by which Ward Committees become partners in the developmental role of Emfuleni Local Municipality. For the purpose of the study, the hypothesis was formulated that ward committees are a strategic structure for public participation on council projects; yet, their effective functioning at Emfuleni Local Municipality is flawed by lack of capacity and administrative support. To test the validity or otherwise of the hypothesis use was made of theoretical review of literature on public participation and ward committees. Further there was an empirical research method of open ended questionnaires that was used to test attitudes and perceptions of councilors, ward committees and the community of Emfuleni Local Municipality on the effectiveness of ward committees. It was found, amongst others that: Ward committees as community structures are well known by the community of Emfuleni Local Municipality Majority of respondents were active in elections of ward committees There is community articipation in community projects as a result of ward committee mobilization Ward committee members are popular with the community due to door to door feedback of council activities which they regular give; Council gives support to ward committees with some logistics. Committees however, are not empowered in access to council information and in-incentives such as out of pocket allowance. The study ends with recommendations for management action by Council of Emfuleni Local Municipality.