The role of ward committees in facilitating participation in municipal planning : the case of wards 1 and 19 at Umzumbe Municipality.
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The aim of this study was to determine the role of Ward Committees in facilitating community participation in municipal planning. The main objective was to identify challenges currently faced by Ward Committees in discharging their responsibilities and to make recommendations that would improve Ward Committee's participation in municipal planning. A qualitative approach was adopted and data was gathered through focus group discussions and interviews. The findings indicated that one of the key impediments to Ward Committees having an influence on council decision making appears to be limited power that most Ward Councilors have within the deliberation processes of municipal councils. Moreover, the tensions around respective powers and functions of Ward Committees also highlight a larger fundamental issue affecting public participation and local government. This study found that the role of Ward Committee members in the Integrated Development Planning process is unsatisfactory. The findings indicated that the Ward Committees had limited knowledge of the Integrated Development Plan process despite the fact that they were expected to facilitate and take part in decision making. The study recommends training for Ward Committees on municipal process, clarity on their role and access to information on municipal planning. Ward Committees have a great potential to facilitate bigger community involvement and should be more integrated into municipal processes the study has established. It is therefore necessary that the role of Ward Committees be understood as being an instrument of community participation within a broader context of municipal governance.