Decentralized spaces for change : a case study of the Lunerburg war room at eDumbe Local Municipality.
This research paper looked at a war room as a decentralized space for change through which public participation is to be enhanced and service delivery accelerated at a ward level. The Lunerburg community demarcated as ward one under eDumbe Local Municipality was used as a case study. The eDumbe Local Municipality falls under Zululand District Municipality located in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal. Since the take-off of democracy in South Africa, national government has put programmes in place to fight the acceleration of poverty and attend to the backlogs of service delivery. Provincial government are always mandated to implement national programmes or improvised according to the needs of their provinces. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal, the former Premier Zweli Mkhize launched war rooms as a provincial strategy derived from the national war on poverty campaign (announced by former president Thabo Mbeki during the State of the Nation Address, 2008) in the attempt to create decentralized spaces for change through which public participation is to be enhanced to achieve accelerated service delivery at a ward level. The other significance of the strategy is that it takes provincial government to local municipality wards in a collaborative manner. It is also important to note that the use of war rooms in the attempt to enhance public participation and service delivery is not understood and accepted by many people. Currently there are discussions held by the KZN office of the Premier in collaboration with sector departments as well civil societies in the attempt to give war rooms a relevant name. Literature on public participation, decentralization as well as on good governance supported by various diagrams and tables was used to argue in support that citizen’s voices should be integrated in development plans that affect them directly. The study was empirical, employed qualitative methodologies and used triangulated means to collect the data. Content analysis was used to analyse the collected data. The focus of the research was to investigate the extent through which, war rooms as decentralized spaces for change, serve as a unique mechanism to achieve public participation at a ward level in respect to currently existing strategies at a ward level. The study intended to also highlight mechanisms that are used by the war room as well to diagnose the support that the war room is receiving from other government departments. Study findings revealed that the Lunerburg war room executive committee members still lack proper training in relation to their roles and responsibilities within the war room. Members of the Lunerburg community didn’t know where the war room is located and what it does at a ward level. It was also discovered that the Lunerburg war room is not resourced to enhance public participation and accelerate service delivery on its own. Operations of the Lunerburg war room enable community members as beneficiaries of the war room to remain passive participants rather than active participants in the decisions that affect them directly.