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Title:Public participation in democratic South Africa: from popular mobilisation to structured co-optation and protest
Author:Booysen, SusanISNI
Periodical:Politeia: Journal for Political Science and Public Administration
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:popular participation
political action
Abstract:This article explores the trajectories of public participation repertoires and initiatives in South Africa from 1994 to 2008, with particular emphasis on changes from the late 1990s onward. Given the institutionalization of democratic, legitimate government, and corresponding changes in political culture, South Africa by the late 1990s had moved beyond the era of wide-ranging popular mobilization in support of governance and policies. There was acceptance of the new and legitimate democratic order and there were expectations of public consultation and articulation between popular needs and government action. It could thus have been expected that subsequent initiatives for public participation would often be top-down, or initiated by government. The analysis indeed reveals increasing repertoires of government facilitation of public participation, often in the form of co-optation and co-governance. It shows that it was in cases of failure of both participation and substantive transformation that citizens, especially from 2005 onwards, claimed protest as a self-initiated, bottom-up form of participation. The author pinpoints both advances and government efforts at the elaboration of public participation, and the setbacks and failures of the period. Her conceptual analysis anchors a typology of public participation and a periodization of trends in public participation in South Africa. It demonstrates how public participation in South Africa evolved and expanded, without bringing the satisfaction that 'the system works'. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract]