An evaluation of the effectiveness of civic structures in housing development with reference to St. Wendolins and Savannah Park.
Mahura, Ntebatse Salome Sophia.
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Since the transition to democracy, debates have revolved around the future role of civics in South Africa. Civics have been engaged in matters pertaining to protest against apartheid policies, which excluded black South Africans from decision-making processes. With apartheid dismantled, a need arose to redefine their roles. One view is that civics should remain mass-based and act as 'watchdogs', in order to ensure that local government becomes sufficiently democratic and sensitive to the needs of the community. The other view is that their role should shift from protest to development, with particular reference to housing, in order to help address the development needs of the community. If one supports the argument that civics should involve themselves directly in development, one needs to address some criticisms and doubts that have been raised. Some allege that civics cannot participate effectively in development because they do not represent the interests and concerns of the majority in the community. Their effectiveness in development is questioned on the basis that they do not have the capacity, given their lack of experience. Others, however, view civics as the appropriate vehicle to engage in effective development because, being in close contact with the community, they know best what the interests and priorities of the community are. Two casestudy areas, St Wendolins and Savannah Park, were selected to investigate the potential role of civics in development, with particular reference to housing delivery. This was done through interviews. The performance of civics in Independent Development Trust (IDT) projects in these areas was examined to assess their effectiveness as a basis for understanding their future role in housing development, particularly the consolidation process. The findings indicated that civics were not effective, largely because of internal and external factors. They do not have financial, administrative and technical skills essential for participating in effective housing development. Furthermore, they are not truly representative and do not have the resources to manage the process. On the other hand civics were constrained by the authorities and agencies who came with a predetermined package, which ignored effective participation and imposed development on them. As a reSUlt, civics were not empowered. and did not gain capacity because there was no effective transfer of skills. Notwithstanding these inadequacies, the study has argued for civic participation in housing development in the future because they are locally-based and are important organs of civil society which understands the aspirations and problems of their constituencies. This will be a move away from the 'top-down' approach which was employed by bureaucrats in the apartheid era. Civics need to play an effective role in development in order to complement the role of local government. To play this role, civics as well as the officials, need to change and adapt to the new participatory roles. Civics should be democratically elected, and should be engaged in all stages of development. They should undergo training which will enable them to acquire the necessary skills. Through participation in social compacts, civics can help promote housing development which corresponds to the needs and priorities of their constituencies.