Community participation: Lessons from post-apartheid South Africa


The South African post-apartheid constitution provides for community participation in the construction, implementation and evaluation of integrated development planning at local level. This article reviews and assesses community participation in practice drawing on the findings of a range of research projects conducted in Cape Town since 1994. It is argued that contemporary understanding of community participation in South Africa is informed by the memory of community struggle - a radical form of participation - against the racist apartheid State. This means that communities have a richly-textured history of strategic mobilization against exclusionary and discriminatory government practices at the local level. It is precisely this repertoire of radical strategies that can and should be revisited and adapted, to advance the interests of the materially marginalized communities at the local level. ‘People driven’ development programmes through Integrated Development Planning (IDP) in post-apartheid South Africa in general, and Cape Town in particular, have thus far been largely rhetorical and not substantive. Hence, the enduring challenge of the perennial question at the grassroots level remains: in whose interest is community participation really driven?


Williams, J.J. Community participation: Lessons from post-apartheid South Africa. Policy Studies (2006) 27 (3) 197-217.

Community participation: Lessons from post-apartheid South Africa

Published 1 January 2006