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Citizen vs. customer: Different approaches to public participation in service delivery in Cape Town

Conclusion

The neo-liberal shift in how public authorities shape the subject at the local level must be contextualized as part of the structural transformations of local government in decentralizing its core responsibilities for the provision of collectively consumed goods to a more-market-oriented interpretation of being a service enabler. This global trend certainly influenced South African debates during the transition period on the vital role of local government in rebuilding a deeply- divided society while simultaneously entering the global economy. We have reviewed the outcomes of these macroeconomic and social tensions on the development agendas of the City of Cape Town.

The post-apartheid South African state was deeply committed to democratization, as illustrated through an extensive set of pieces of legislation designed to incorporate public participation in service delivery. In this article, we have shown how local government has grappled with implementing procedural equity through the notion of Developmental Local Government. We have reviewed the institutional limitations to implementing public participation mechanisms that were part of the goals of DLG, such as the RDP and IDP fora. We then illustrated two competing visions of development within local government and how these visions shaped the practice of service delivery in the city. The MSD prioritized efficiency in service delivery and in doing so shaped the subject as a customer. Alternatively, COMDEV prioritized equity and in doing so shaped the subject as a citizen. These different approaches to service delivery significantly shape the development trajectory of low-income communities.

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Ahmedi Vawda is in national government as Deputy Director General of Housing.

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Smith, L., Vawda, A. Citizen vs. customer: Different approaches to public participation in service delivery in Cape Town. Urban Forum 14, 26–52 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-003-0002-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-003-0002-0

Keywords

  • Local Government
  • Service Delivery
  • Public Participation
  • Urban Forum
  • Integrate Development Plan