n Journal of Public Administration - Making participatory governance work - re-inventing forums in South Africa

Volume 45, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



The article argues that South Africa has a very useful weapon for strengthening democracy in the form of the public forums but that this weapon is not being utilised appropriately. In fact, the forums, in their present form, are a travesty of the good they should be. Besides being state-led, they are a microcosm of challenges within the administration of government. These challenges include poor coordination, delays, lack of consultation, poor follow-up on issues and political party posturing. Besides being encumbered with bureaucratic inefficiency, the forums in their current form also disclose the subjugation of society by an elite-led neo-liberal state. Government calls the shots throughout and people are expected to obey. In fact, are supposed to be society-led, not state-led. The state is supposed to play a catalytic role as a primary partner. The article argues for the need to re-invent in a manner which will make participatory governance work. This requires that attention be given to design and content issues first, and then coordination, follow-up and implementation issues. It is the design aspect which this article covers. The results of community-wide conversations facilitated by community leaders, community workers and community building organisations should feed into a structure which operates like a 'citizens' jury', to further deliberate on issues. The results of the deliberation should be sent to politicians and government advisors as non-binding recommendations which will be discussed at a general .

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