Development and New Forms of Democracy in eThekwini

Richard Ballard, Debby Bonnin, Jenny Robinson, Thokozani Xaba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Through a case study of development policy making in the eThekwini metro (Durban), South Africa, this paper explores the emergence of new forms of local democracy in post-apartheid South Africa. After a review of the process surrounding the preparation of the Long-term Development Framework and the Integrated Development Plan in the city from the late 1990s through to 2003, the paper outlines the nature of community participation in the creation of these plans. We note the relationship between processes of formal elected representation and strong community participation in the preparation of the Long-term Development Framework. The initially extensive participatory process to some extent evolved into a routinised series of local meetings in each ward where community involvement was better characterised as consultative rather than participatory. The complexities and power relationships internal to participatory or consultative practices are placed alongside the way in which 'participation' competes with other forms of representation. Elected representatives were very important for setting the tone and direction for development policy in the city, although some perceived community meetings as threatening to their legitimacy or role. Unelected representatives such as traditional authorities were also relevant in this context. The final section turns to more informal but no less important influences on development policy in the city. In particular, major business actors have had a direct influence on large capital projects within the city. Furthermore, politicians at a provincial and national level participate in many decisions relating to the city through party networks. Officials and council departments played a significant role in determining the policy documents and visions for the future of the city. We conclude that a range of forms of democratic government all played a role in shaping development policy: participatory, electoral, party mechanisms, bureaucratic institutions of government, and informal influence. While all these co-existing aspects of democracy instantiate fields of power relations, the evidence from Durban suggests that local democracy is being forged in distinctive and vibrant ways in post-apartheid South Africa, even if these are necessarily embedded in emergent systems of power relations which frame and limit opportunities for redistributive and developmental outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-287
Number of pages23
JournalUrban Forum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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