Urban Forum

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 247–264 | Cite as

Dilemmas of Representation in Post-apartheid Durban

  • Murray LowEmail author
  • Richard Ballard
  • Brij Maharaj


This paper aims to provide a sketch of the ways in which ‘formal’ institutions of democratic representation worked in practice in Durban/eThekwini in the 2000-2004 period. In so doing, it assesses how the representation of eThekwini’s citizens functioned at both the ward and metropolitan levels. After outlining the formation of the new metropolitan political arena, we consider the relationships amongst political parties at Metro and Ward levels, and, in particular, explore some contextually specific forms of democratic practice which emerged through the interaction of proportional representation and ward representation over time. The election of councillors as such does not resolve a series of dilemmas concerning how to institutionalise democratic representation within a racially diverse, spatially divided, and rapidly changing metropolitan area. Electoral-representative aspects of a urban democratisation are not a straightforward ‘formal’ framework alongside which other processes of democratic discussion, mobilisation and contestation can be easily situated.


Local democracy Durban Post-apartheid 



The research reported in this paper and in the two other papers collected here (Ballard et al., and Barnett and Scott) was undertaken as part of a joint project, New Spaces of Democracy in Post-Apartheid Durban, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Interchange Grant, between the Open University, the London School of Economics, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The authors of all three papers also thank the numerous people of Durban (political representatives, officials, activists, residents and fellow scholars) who gave very generously of their time and experience in making the research possible. The authors of this paper would like to thank others on the team for a stimulating collaboration. In particular, we would like to thank Jenny Robinson for her support and for editing this paper. Finally, we would like to thank Brice Gijsbertsen at the School of Geography, University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg, for compiling the map (Fig. 1).


  1. Bennington, J., & Hartley, J. (1994). From transition to transformation: The strategic management of change in the organisation and management of change in the organisation and culture of local government in the new South Africa. Warwick, UK: Warwick Business School.Google Scholar
  2. Cameron, R.G. (ed.) (1999). The democratisation of South African local government. A tale of three cities. L. Van Schaik, Pretoria.Google Scholar
  3. Cameron, R. (2003). The restructuring of South Africa’s local government electoral system. Paper presented at the International Political Science Conference, Durban (July).Google Scholar
  4. Cameron, R. (2006). Local government boundary reorganization. In U. Pillay, R. Tomlinson, & J. du Toit (Eds.) Democracy and delivery: urban policy in South Africa (pp. 76–106). Cape Town: HSRC.Google Scholar
  5. Coleman, G. (1995). Strategies for economic growth and development in KwaZulu-Natal. South African Labour Bulletin, 19(December), 48–52.Google Scholar
  6. Faull, J. (2004). Democracy development programme workshop: Floor crossing. Durban = Y&RID = 1109Google Scholar
  7. Giraut, F., & Maharaj, B. (2003). Contested terrains: Cities and hinterlands in post-apartheid boundary delimitations. GeoJournal, 57, 39–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Habib, A., & Naidu, S. (2004). Are South Africa’s elections a racial census? Election Synopsis. 1(2):4–7. Scholar
  9. Hart, G. (2002). Disabling globalization: Places of power in post-apartheid South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.Google Scholar
  10. Hindson, D., Mabin, A., & Watson, V. (1992). Restructuring the built environment. Report to Working Group 5, National Housing Forum.Google Scholar
  11. IEC (2001). Independent electoral commission seat calculation. 1 March.[DurbanMetro].html
  12. Koetzé, D. (2007) The case of South Africa. In KAS (ed.) The impact of floor crossing on party systems and representative democracy. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Seminar Report No. 19. pp. 71–84.
  13. Lodge, T., Kadima, D., & Pottie, D. (2002). Compendium of elections in Southern Africa. Johannesburg: Electoral Institute of Southern Africa.Google Scholar
  14. Maasdorp, G., & Humphrey, A. S. B. (1975). From Shantytown to township. Cape Town: Juta.Google Scholar
  15. Morris, M., & Hindson, D. (1992). South Africa: Political violence, reform and reconstruction. Review of African Political Economy, 53, 43–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Narsiah, S., & Maharaj, B. (1999). Borders of dissent in South Africa: The Bushbuckridge saga. Transformation, 40, 36–54.Google Scholar
  17. Ramutsindela, M. R. (2001). Unfrozen ground: South Africa’s contested spaces. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  18. Ramutsindela, M. R., & Simon, D. (1999). The politics of territory and place in post-apartheid South Africa: The disputed area of Bushbuckridge. Journal of Southern African Studies, 25, 479–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Republic of South Africa (1996). Constitution of the Republic of South Africa
  20. Republic of South Africa (1998). White paper on local government. Government Gazette no, 19614, 18 December.Google Scholar
  21. Saward, M. (2003). Enacting democracy. Political Studies, 51, 161–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Southall, R. (2004). Containing accountability. In M. Reitzes (Ed), Election Synopsis, 1(1): 6–8.
  23. Sutcliffe, M. (2002). Municipal demarcation board. Paper presented at the French–South African Conference on Territorial Innovation, January, Grenoble, France.Google Scholar
  24. Swilling, M., Cobbett, W., & Hunter, R. (1991). Finance, electricity costs, and the rent boycott. In M. Swilling, R. Humphries, & K. Shubane (Eds.) Apartheid city in transition (pp. 174–196). Cape Town: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Swilling, M., Monteiro, O., & Johnson, K. (1995). Building democratic local governance in Southern Africa: A review of key trends. Paper presented at the World Congress of the Global Urban Research Initiative, Mexico City.Google Scholar
  26. Van Donk, M. (1998). Women in Local Government in South Africa – From Marginalisation to Empowerment, Seminar Report, pp. 2–14.Google Scholar
  27. van Donk, M., & Pieterse, E. (2006). Reflections on the design of a post-apartheid system of (urban) local government. In U. Pillay, R. Tomlinson, & J. du Toit (Eds.) Democracy and delivery: Urban policy in South Africa (pp. 107–134). Cape Town: HSRC Press.Google Scholar
  28. Wooldridge, D. (2002). Introducing Metropolitan Local Government in South Africa. In S. Parnell, E. Pieterse, M. Swilling, & D. Wooldridge (Eds.) Democratising local government: the South African Experiment (pp. 127–140). Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.Google Scholar
  29. Young, I. M. (2000). Inclusion and democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and EnvironmentThe London School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK
  2. 2.School of Development StudiesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of GeographyGeography, School of Environmental SciencesScottsvilleSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations