Photography by:
  • Amanda van der Walt

Rationalities of Government & Governance

The ‘Gauteng City-Region’ is both an actually existing place, holding more than a quarter of South Africa’s population, and a political project for better government and governance in this all-important part of the country.

The foundational idea behind the GCR was that ‘we need to cooperate more internally to compete better externally’. Building a city-region is fundamentally about getting the sometimes fragmented architecture of government – whose different parts are responsible for different areas and functions – to cohere around agreed development plans.

A dynamic city-region also depends on the ability of government to forge productive partnerships with a range of other public, private and civil society organisations, as well as on more positive relations between government and communities. This last issue is becoming ever more pressing. Evidence from GCRO’s Quality of Life Survey (QoL) suggests that something urgently needs to be done to re-engage government and residents who, in spite of high levels of satisfaction with some services, may be losing faith in government itself. One of GCRO’s core arguments in reporting QoL results has been that government needs to ‘look beyond’ mere basic service delivery, and fix what is driving a wedge between it and residents.

Research in this thematic area examines both government itself and the relations between government and society. On the former, it is vital to consider how government is defining its objects and organising itself in relation to these purposes (hence rationalities of government), and also to dig deeper into the administrative configurations that might either facilitate or hinder a more integrated and co-ordinated GCR. These ‘institutional ethnographies’ need to be complemented with deeper analysis of the expectations that residents have of government – how are these expectations framed, organised, mobilised and expressed, and in turn how are they processed by government in a manner that is also constitutive of ‘society’s demands’?

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