Home Institution

Tufts University

Publication Date

Fall 2005

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Social Change


Decreasing amounts of public participation threaten to undermine the legitimacy of democracy in South Africa. Numerous surveys, academic resources and Internet and print media indicate general trends among the citizenry that a disconnection and dissatisfaction towards government is prevalent. As a result, the South African public has extremely low levels of public participation for a nation with such a politically charged past. It has become the objective of many civil society organizations to help with the delivery of vital developmental goals, including democracy advocacy, on behalf of the citizens. This paper seeks to examine the efforts of a single NGO, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) through its Centre for Governance in Africa (CGA) programme, in facilitating public participation. The CGA runs programmes in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, a region identified in numerous reports as having low levels of infrastructure and public participation. The organization engages with local partners to develop a variety of methods that encourage public participation amongst civil society organizations. These include the development of a reference toolkit for civil society organizations and the facilitation of public hearings. These steps are taken to provide the capacity and means for individuals and organizations to engage with formal government structures. The research for this paper revolves around a practicum completed with the CGA during three weeks. I used a variety of research methods, including interviews with CGA staff members, independent research on public participation in South Africa and Internet and print media sources. The conclusions section of this piece contextualizes CGA programmes within the broader scope of public participation. It is concluded that the CGA’s efforts in the Eastern Cape are still in the midst of development. There are various obstacles to be addressed to facilitate public participation, including that of logistics and capacity-building. By adopting the middle ground and creating new solutions to identified problems, the CGA programme appears to be effective in linking civil society to government structures.


Politics and Social Change | Public Administration


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