Local Officials And The Struggle to Transform Cities - A view from Post-apartheid South Africa

GCRO Senior Researchers Dr. Darlington Mushongera and Dr. Mamokete Modiba published individual chapters in a recent edited volume Local Officials and the Struggle to Transform Cities. Overall, the book analyses governance challenges in South African cities, with a focus on state practices in a post-apartheid context. The book is available as open access.

In his contribution to this book, Dr. Darlington Mushongera writes of the time he spent in the City of Johannesburg for his doctoral research. Darlington's chapter is titled Lost in Translation: The Elusive Equity Objective in Johannesburg's Water Policy. He argues that the City of Johannesburg's water sector governance landscape is complex and amorphous due to the multiplicity of planning documents and regulatory instruments, the vagueness of equity objectives, the existence of units with overlapping mandates within the city, and the split between monitoring and operation delegated to Joburg Water. This complexity highlights the limits of New Public Management, as the attempt to separate efficiency principles embodied in Joburg Water from equity objectives driven by strategic City policies has led to a blurring of the latter. The governance framework that emerges is opaque, with no one taking responsibility for carefully balancing these two requirements.

Dr. Mamokete's chapter, titled Acting like the State? Leaders' participation in street trade management in Gauteng municipalities, contributes to an understanding of seeing the local state from its margins. The chapter explores the extent to which street trade leaders participate in the everyday management of the activity, particularly waiting lists administration and space allocation. The chapter deepens the concept of ‘twilight institutions’ (Lund 2006), which captures multiple institutions and actors in the state–society interface that exercise public authority. It proposes a framework of two archetypes of such institutions along the fuzzy border of the state: leaders operating on the margins of the state and quasi-state officials. It argues that state actors do not recognise leaders on the margins and exclude them from formal allocation processes. While formally excluded, leaders insert themselves in everyday management processes in various ways. Quasi-state officials, who are semi-institutionalised agents, are delegated certain official duties by state actors and participate in allocation processes. This inclusion in allocation processes creates opportunities for leaders to create their own informal practices from below that are sometimes integrated into formal state governance practices, thereby resulting in the informalisation of the state.

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