Original Research

Public participation power dynamics in strategic development planning in a metropolitan municipality: Eastern Cape Province

Modeni M. Sibanda, Liezel Lues
Journal of Local Government Research and Innovation | Vol 2 | a44 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jolgri.v2i0.44 | © 2021 Modeni M. Sibanda, Liezel Lues | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 September 2021 | Published: 17 December 2021

About the author(s)

Modeni M. Sibanda, Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Management and Commerce, University of Fort Hare, Bisho, South Africa
Liezel Lues, Department of Public Administration and Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


Background: Public participation in municipal strategic development planning processes does not occur in a vacuum; it is juxtaposed within contextual community realities of power, politics, institutional, systemic practices, cultures and inequities in resource capacity, amongst other relational social practices.

Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the nature of power dynamics in participatory governance platforms and spaces during municipal strategic development planning processes and the extent to which they impact developmental outcomes in a metropolitan municipality.

Setting: A metropolitan municipality in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.

Methods: An interpretive, constructivist, cross-sectional exploratory case study collected in-depth qualitative data from purposefully sampled participants (n = 34) using focus-group discussions. Qualitative data were processed using NVivo 8 computer software and analysed using a thematic analysis approach.

Results: The results indicated mixed views on participants’ satisfaction with public participation in municipal strategic development planning processes. Participants reported inadequate knowledge, capacity and capability; resource limits; political exclusion and language barriers, which muted community voice and disempowered, marginalised and excluded some residents from meaningfully participating and articulating community voice, priorities and needs.

Conclusion: Public participation in municipal strategic development planning in the metropolitan municipality is at best tokenistic, constituting mere ‘window dressing,’ co-option and ‘pretence’ of inclusion of communities/residents in public participation platforms and spaces. Whilst on the surface, public participation appears inclusive of a range of stakeholders, at best powerful andr elite interests shape strategic development planning outcomes. A local governance framework for enhancing community voice in public participation platforms and spaces is recommended.


public participation; power dynamics; strategic development planning; structuration theory; local governance; metropolitan municipality


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