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An examination of the extent of, and public participation in, public policy decision-making : the case of the name changing of St. Lucia Wetland Park to Isimangaliso Wetland Park.

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This is a study of public participation which is located within context of the current policy processes that are occurring across South Africa whereby local municipalities are re-naming streets and buildings to more broadly reflect the heritage of South Africa and its people. The process has suffered drawbacks across the country and commentators point to poor public participation, consultation and public engagement. The process of name-changing proves a need to pose some critical questions about the nature of policy implementation in a democratic South Africa. I look at this through the theoretical framework of public policy implementation. In this study I examine the process of public participation in the changing of the name St. Lucia Wetland Park to Isimangaliso Wetland Park. I adopt a qualitative research approach comprising of semi-structured interviews and surveys. I explore four key questions. First, what was the public policy decision-making process that was followed in the renaming of St. Lucia Wetland Park as Isimangaliso Wetland Park? Second, did the re-naming of St. Lucia Wetland Park as Isimangaliso Wetland Park include participation and consultation in the decision-making processes by the public who reside and work in the area? If so, what type of consultation did this include and what was the extent of the participation? Third, to what extent is this new name accepted or rejected by the public who live and work in the area? Is the acceptance or rejection of the name dependent upon levels of consultation, dependent upon the historical significance of the new name, or on something else altogether? Fourth, what implications does the acceptance or rejection of the new name have for processes of public participation in public policy decision-making in the future and for theories of implementation? I find that, despite no proper process of consultation, the community who live and work in the area accept the new name of the park. They do so for three reasons. First, the community do not treat the park as theirs. Second, they have never been participants in previous decision-making processes. Third, the new name represents a history and heritage that they claim as their own. These findings indicate that theories of public policy implementation should be revised.


Thesis (M.A.)-Univerisity of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009.


Names, Geographical--Government policy--South Africa., Street names--Government policy--South Africa., Political planning--South Africa., Theses--Public policy.