n Journal of Public Administration - Twenty years of faltering "democracy" : service delivery planning and public participation in South Africa




One of the pertinent distinctions of the concept of democracy is that it serves as an ideal for the exercise of people's power as a totality of political association. This paper holds that democracy, as a set of principles rather than mere institutions, remains nebulous if it is not given pragmatic effect in ordinary citizenry's specific contexts. In a "democratic" South Africa, such a context would unavoidably involve the application of democratic principles in the service delivery planning and implementation so that the latter activities conform to the decisions shaped through popular public participation for consensus building. This paper contests that decisions about priorities relating to services to be delivered, the mushrooming of popular social protests that are violent as well as the evident upward spiral in voter apathy are inescapable pointers to a faltering democracy. This paper uses conceptions of democracy, its pragmatic realisation in service delivery planning through public participation, as well as the declining trends in voter perceptions about South Africa going in the right and government performance, to demonstrate that the citizenry as experienced twenty years of faltering democracy.


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