Popular mobilisation, party dominance and participatory governance in South Africa
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This chapter seeks to explore the character of popular mobilization in South Africa, mostly at the local level. This is done through exploring the interaction of two independent processes. The first concerns the relative empowerment of political parties and the disempowerment of civil society (especially social movements) by the democratization process in South Africa. The second concerns the introduction of new institutions of public participation in local governance. Hence, while the latter are portrayed as ‘invited spaces’ in which communities can engage the local state constructively, the poor design of these spaces, a lack of genuine will on the part of elites and the relative power of key social actors mean that, in practice, they are either meaningless processes or simply co-opted by political parties. Notably, civil society has tended either to disengage from the local state and focus on provincial and national levels, or to resort to forms of popular protest to be heard by local government – the non-governmental organization (NGO) sector usually favouring the first approach and social movements the second.