The South African post-apartheid government has made a number of laws since 1994 that make it possible for ordinary people to play a meaningful role in the affairs of local authorities. Local authorities are, for example, obliged to consult citizens with regard to Integrated Development Planning at grassroots level. Towards this end, the City of Cape Town established Areas Coordinating Teams (ACTs) in 1999 in several townships with a view to empowering historically marginalised and excluded communities. This article investigates whether or not ACTs are an effective medium to represent the voices of ordinary people in matters of local governance. It concludes that community participation, as in ACTs, appears to be functionally truncated, institutionally manipulated and are thus structurally limiting. This means that ACTs merely serve to ratify rather than influence/change official behaviour and that communities are only consulted as long as they support the goals of particular officials or politicians.
IDS Bulletin - Vol 35 No 2, pp. 19-25 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-5436.2004.tb00117.x]