n African Human Rights Law Journal - Public participation in decentralised governments in Africa : making ambitious constitutional guarantees more responsive

Volume 15, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



Following the example of South Africa, Kenya, Tunisia and Zimbabwe have recently adopted constitutions that contain bills of rights, embrace the ideals of decentralisation and profess a commitment to participatory democracy. In these countries, different forms of local government are constitutionally protected and accorded some degree of self-governing powers. As part of the state's overarching governance machinery, these governments are obliged to contribute towards the realisation of constitutionally-defined objectives, including a variety of constitutionally-entrenched rights, the pursuit of social justice and sustainable development. As the level of government closest to communities, a local government is constitutionally obliged to facilitate public participation in local governance. In South Africa, the Constitutional Court has interpreted the scope of the government's obligation to facilitate public participation in policy formulation and law-making processes extensively. The article explores the Court's jurisprudence on the nature and extent of the duty to facilitate public participation in order to distil lessons that could guide local authorities in Kenya, Tunisia and Zimbabwe to optimise the quality of public participation in local governance. I argue that, if implemented, guidelines distilled from the Court's jurisprudence could help optimise the quality of public participation at the local level in the various countries.

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