An analysis of public participation in the integrated development planning processes of the Hibiscus Coast Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The importance of the concept of public participation continues to gain great momentum in the circles of local government in South Africa. Public participation is a way of ensuring that local government is responsive to that which the public prioritizes as their development needs. Public participation in South Africa is very important as it is the backbone of the democratic state that the 1994 general elections introduced. In response to the importance of public participation in the local government, the South African government has passed several statutes to ensure that substance and emphasis is given to the country’s local government sphere. These statutes include, amongst others, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, the Municipal Structures Act 1998, the Municipal Systems Act 2000 and the Municipal Finance Management Act 2003. It is at the local government sphere where the public participation is primarily applied in order to promote both good governance and a responsive local government. This research project is an analysis of public participation in the integrated development planning processes of the Hibiscus Coast Local Municipality. This study acknowledges that public participation is an important component of transformation and democratization of local government. Legislation alone cannot meet this requirement and more still needs to be done to truly enhance public participation in local government. This study found that despite legislation that provides for the structures that the public must use to participate in the integrated development planning processes in the Hibiscus Coast local municipality; there is a need for the Hibiscus Coast municipality to develop its own conceptualization and understanding of public participation. Moreover, proper mechanisms need to be established to enhance the participation of the local communities and stakeholders in the municipality’s integrated development processes. The study is primarily based on qualitative data collected from the Hibiscus Coast Local Municipality through personal interviews with councillors, officials and ward committee members, review of local government statutes and literature providing knowledge on the subject under study.