Public participation : a critical assessment of Potchefstroom Municipality
Mweli, Josephine Dimakatso
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The purpose of the study was to focus on public participation in the context of local government, with specific reference to the Potchefstroom Municipality. Public participation m the formulation and implementation of policy is not a new phenomenon in South Africa. Before the introduction of the democratic constitutional dispensation in April 1994, it was limited and not supported by legislation. The principle of community, citizen or public participation in South Africa does not take place in a vacuum. The Municipal Structures Act, inter alia, provides that the municipality must develop a culture of municipal governance which complements formal representative government with a system of participatory governance. The objectives of the study include, the explanation of the concept of public participation, the determination of the policy and legislation provision for public participation in the Potchefstroom Municipality, mechanisms and processes used for public participation as well as constraints, challenges and strategies to enhance public participation. The study found that policies regulating public participation are m place and that mechanisms to promote it are effectively managed. Public participation is generally understood by role players and effectively managed. But, it was also found that there is a lack of accountability and community disillusionment in some areas of service delivery. There is also a lack of ethical conduct, perceived corruption and this will require the municipality to act promptly to deal with these challenges. Capacity building is required for Council officials in areas of skills that they require to ensure service delivery and to implement Batho-Pele (People-First). There are various forms of communication in place; however, there is a need to introduce strategies to reach out to all residents in languages that they understand. Meaningful participatory government provides active and direct involvement of the community in matters that affect their well-being.