Public participation and collaborative governance in Zimbabwean flea markets: a case study of the City of Harare.
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Public participation can play an important role in addressing developmental, governance and administrative challenges being faced by local authorities. Studies have shown that a highly participatory and engaged public determines the county’s level of development and this enhances participatory democracy. Drawing upon Sherry Arnstein’s typology of the ladder of participation and Mathew A. Crenson’s democratic model of public participation, the study explored public participation in the City of Harare. It also looked at Harare’s public participation framework and the role of stakeholders in the governance of the informal sector. It argues that participation is far from being achieved due to a multiplicity of factors. The study employed a mixed-methods approach which involved documentary analysis, in-depth interviews (32), and survey methods (165 questionnaires). By employing qualitative and quantitative methods of enquiry, I attempted to illuminate how Zimbabwean local government policymakers utilise public participation legislation within the context of collaborative governance. Furthermore, through the use of mixed methods design, the study sought to provide evidence for the validity of the hypothesis and find solutions to the inherent weaknesses that currently exist in Zimbabwe’s local government sphere when it comes to public participation. The results indicate that despite the introduction of a progressive constitution and the existence of various participatory mechanisms, various challenges continue to inhibit public participation in Harare. These include lack of funding, continued central government intervention, re-centralisation of governance due to loss of political power by the ruling party, political polarization, resistance by administrators to co-opt the public in decision-making processes and failure to adapt to change. The findings will be of interest to local government practitioners and scholars alike as they have a number of practical implications. The results of this study indicate that there is a need to put in place a robust legislative framework that promotes citizenry involvement and de-link party politics with development and governance of local authorities. A key policy priority should, therefore, be to inculcate a culture of inclusivity, tolerance, and de-centralisation of power and governance. Overall, this study strengthens the idea that public participation is sacrosanct and vital for political and economic development.