Between supply and demand: the limits to participatory development in South Africa

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 11
  • Abstract:

    Much of the focus in the literature on participatory development has been on the demand side and on the extent to which citizens succeed in pressuring the state to deliver basic services. Less attention has been focused on the supply side of participatory development, namely on how state institutions give effect to development policies. Post-Apartheid South Africa is replete with policies and legislation supporting participatory processes and yet in practice this has seldom lived up to the ideals espoused. This article examines the delivery of public housing in poor communities in three municipalities in South Africa and argues that there is a mismatch between how the formulators of policy understand participation and how it is interpreted by beneficiary communities and local officials. It concludes that considerably more attention needs to be focused on why officials fail to translate national policies into action if participatory democracy is to attain any legitimacy in the population at large.