n Journal of Public Administration - Political and community oversight for good governance in South Africa

Volume 48, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



This article examines the significance of political and community oversight in the effective delivery of public services, and specifically the role of such oversight in reinforcing and strengthening good governance. Though a relatively new term, 'good governance' has become part of the accepted development and democratic common sense. It is argued in this article that good governance is an essential precondition for both public and private institutions if they are to improve the lives of the poor. Apart from the institutions expressly created to defend good governance, the authors suggest that communities themselves can and should play an oversight role, thereby holding local government accountable in delivering basic services. South Africa is one of only a few countries that have made formal progress in internalising and institutionalising the logic and structures of good governance as articulated by the 1996 Constitution and the earlier Bill of Rights. Although oversight structures exist, there is a fine line between the role of government and the polity in crucial decision-making processes. Political oversight is often undermined by party political interference and the effects of the politico-administrative dichotomy - a situation which is in turn exacerbated by the often nebulous separation of power between the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of the state. This paper asserts that the involvement of organisations as watchdogs and pressure groups could be instrumental in upholding transparency and accountability, thus enhancing delivery of basic public services. The paper makes use of two case studies to highlight issues of political and community oversight for good governance, and suggests how the polity and community could reposition themselves so as to become more effective in their oversight roles.

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