Original Research

A proposed citizen participation–public trust model in the context of service delivery protests in South African local government

Pumlani Msenge, Ogochukwu I. Nzewi
Journal of Local Government Research and Innovation | Vol 2 | a26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jolgri.v2i0.26 | © 2021 Pumlani Msenge, Ogochukwu Nzewi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 October 2020 | Published: 16 July 2021

About the author(s)

Pumlani Msenge, Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Management and Commerce, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa
Ogochukwu I. Nzewi, Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Management and Commerce, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa


The South African local government context has been marred by persistent citizen protests that continue to jeopardise public administrators’ quest for effective service rendering. Such protests have been attributed to the disregard of citizen participation in local government and unresponsive service rendering, amongst other factors. Meaningful citizen participation is seen as a precondition for the establishment of trust between communities and public administrators. This article, delving into the empirical literature, presents a citizen participation and public trust model aimed at minimising service delivery protests in South Africa. It argues that whilst lack of community trust has been lauded as one of the factors that have brewed citizen protests over the years, there is evidence to show that between the core values of procedural justice and public trust, citizen perception of power to influence may be vital to minimise proclivity to protest. The article finds that in addition to the interactional and informational justice components of procedural justice, meaningful citizen participation can be measured as a combination of these justice areas with mechanisms that highlight citizens’ positive perceptions of their power to influence decisions. As recommendations, the article argues that indeed lack of community involvement in municipal processes has the potential to break down trust and explode into service delivery protests. However, the article concludes that ensuring meaningful participation in local government decision-making processes, as defined in this article, is a precondition for building community trust and limiting the outbreak of service delivery protests in the local government context.


community participation; public trust; service delivery protests; local government; South Africa


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