n Journal of Public Administration - Untenable marriage : situating civil society in Botswana and South African political landscape

Volume 48, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



A large part of the discourse of governance envisages cooperation between civil society and the state, with some theorists and practitioners arguing that there is a positive correlation between civil society and good governance. In particular, civil society action is presumed to be a requirement for good governance as well as an indicator of it (Roy, 2008). In essence, the very idea of governance is symbolically significant and suggests that the state alone cannot be the sole manager of public affairs. In this respect, civil society organisations should play a role especially in terms of ensuring state accountability. This paper presents a paradox in that the state is required to accommodate civil society which in turn is required to ensure that the state accounts for its actions.

Significantly and perhaps in a bid to preserve its hegemony, the state provides limits on the civil society by virtue of having to recognise its existence and role. In other words, whereas the civil society may be required to ensure state accountability, its actions must first be legitimised by the state - the very same sphere that the civil society seeks to hold to account - by way of recognising it. In simple terms, this means that although the civil society is theoretically outside of the state, it is nevertheless viewed from the perspective of the state and its effectiveness is, to a large extent, dependent on the attitude of the state. This paper presents a critical assessment of the relationship between the state and civil society, arguing that the legitimacy of civil society activities derives from its recognition by the state, civil society's ability to ensure state accountability is greatly compromised and renders it an affiliate of the state. The paper relied on secondary data to deliberate on governance and civil society discourses as well as the paradox embedded in it.

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