The role of non-governmental organisations in capacity building for democracy in KwaZulu-Natal : a case study of the Centre for Public Participation and the Democracy Development Programme.
Ndlela, Nomagugu Precious.
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This study evaluates the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in educating people about participatory democracy in post apartheid South Africa. After the first democratic elections in 1994 the new government emphasised the importance of public participation in decision-making. The government has advocated this approach through Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) documents (Base Document and White Paper) and the South African Constitution Act 108 of 1996. However, because of public participation, novelty, and social exclusion, the majority of South African citizens still have very limited knowledge and need to be educated about the structures, systems and procedures of participatory democracy. In order to consolidate democratic government, there is a need to shift away from community outreach programmes as ‘road shows’, where there is no two-way ‘iterative and ongoing’ communication because of limited public political knowledge. Conversely, government appears to have done little to increase citizens’ political knowledge. By contrast, NGOs are playing a crucial role in this regard. This study evaluates the effectiveness of NGOs in improving optimal engagement in government and decisionmaking processes in KwaZulu-Natal. Given this scenario, the Centre for Public Participation (CPP) and the Democracy Development Programme (DDP) partnership serve as case studies for this research project. Interviews were conducted with the core facilitators and directors of the two organisations. Through comparative evaluation, the effectiveness of both organisations in promoting participatory democracy was qualitatively and quantitatively assessed using the constant comparative method (Maykut and Morehouse, 1994) and the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) computer software respectively. The results show that the trainees are more likely to participate in developmental issues at local levels compared to non-trainees. The implication of this is that education for participatory democracy is very important. However, it was found that NGOs are not achieving their goal of increasing participation by their target groups in most government processes due to NGO-public differences in what constitutes priorities. Encouraging is that the two NGOs were found to be ‘eye-openers’ for the trainees in that they equipped them with skills that would enable them to monitor local authorities and hold them accountable.