Finding solutions

Dr Zweli Jolobe and Professor Achille Mbembe

Local government needs to embrace citizen participation and move beyond being just a vehicle for the delivery of services. This is if the crisis of democratic representation in municipalities, evident in widespread community protests, is to be addressed.

This was the opinion of Dr Zweli Jolobe from the University of Cape Town’s department of politics, who presented a short paper on the crisis of democratic representation in local government at Wits University recently.

Public Positions on History and Politics. It is hosted by the Department of Political Studies, History Workshop and the Wits Institute for Economic and Social Research (WiSER) at Wits University – in partnership with the Mail & Guardian and with support from the Raith Foundation.

Dr Zweli Jolobe (left) and Professor Achille Mbembe. Jolobe’s paper dealt with the breakdown between those who hold elected office and the communities they represent. The reasons for this collapse and for the political protests that it generates are complex and entrenched – drawing on local and party political factionalism; an enduring mistrust of local government; and competing levels of power within political parties.

Taking the discussion further were Wits Associate Professor of Politics, Daryl Glaser (chair), Professor Achille Mbembe (WiSER) and Dr Mcebisi Ndletyana (MISTRA).


Most solutions offered to the problems of social justice in South Africa have unrealistically short time frames. Almost all the serious problems of injustice have deep institutional and cultural roots. Drawing upon historical and other research in South Africa and learning from the histories of peers such as India and Brazil, this series aims to make broad and insightful research based at Wits University accessible to those designing policies for better social justice.

Other topics in the Public Positions series are: Property, communal land, and traditional leadership; Politics and poetics of infrastructure; Public and private health systems and the quality of care; No register, no rights? Property ownership in South Africa; Race, media and the rupturing of the public sphere; and more.

Public Positions 2: Police against the People

A short paper produced by Julia Hornberger, senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Wits University, formed the basis for a lively discussion by a panel chaired by Firoz Cachalia (Professor in the Wits School of Law), and consisting of Kelly Gillespie (senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Gareth Newham (Head of the Governance, Crime and Justice Division of the Institute for Security Studies) and S'bu Zikode (founder member of Abahlali baseMjondolo [Residents of the shacks] movement). 

Public Positions 1: The Cost of Justice

This series was opened by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib. Professor Jonathan Klaaren from WiSER presented a short, provocative briefing paper, followed by a panel discussion with Judge Kathy Satchwell, attorney Teboho Mosikili and Advocate Geoff Budlender SC.


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This edition

Issue 68