Stakeholder perceptions of public participation in development projects: a case study of the social impacts of the Mooi Mgeni Transfer Scheme Phase II

Markowitz, Chelsea
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Public participation has become an integral component of development projects, and is encouraged in the South African constitution as well as national laws governing the development and management of the environment. Especially in large infrastructure projects such as dams and water transfer systems, community participation is essential, as these projects leave great social and environmental footprints, with the benefits often accruing far beyond the immediately affected areas. Yet, there is little consensus on how this participation should manifest or what it should hope to achieve. This study sought to examine public participation processes through a case study of a dam and pipeline project, the Mooi Mgeni Transfer Scheme Phase II, particularly in terms of its social impacts. The study draws from the perspectives of all stakeholders involved, namely the various project authorities (government architects, implementing company, engineers, construction contractors), the interested and affected community members, and the independent authorities hired to monitor different aspects of the project. This study found that differing views of participation among these different actors greatly affected the participation that manifested in the project. While project authorities’ primary focus for participation was as a means to achieve project goals, community members expected that participation directly benefit them, whether through mitigating impacts or maximising benefits. These differences are complicated by conflicting conceptions of participation in South African legislation, and scant conflict management mechanisms. These conflicting views of participation led to conflict in participatory spaces, and resistance against the project. This study examines five participatory spaces, namely Environmental Impact Assessment public participation meetings, Environmental Monitoring Committee meetings, the engagement with marginalised communities, the engagement with expropriated landowners, and the engagement with relocated informal farm workers. The analysis illuminates the way that power manifests in participatory spaces and can work for or against community goals, and also the effectiveness of different community strategies to leverage their interests. It finds that trust between project authorities and community members is often lacking, but can significantly reduce conflict when it is present. When conflict does arise, if community members are able to upset the project from proceeding, they can make significant inroads in achieving their interests. However, marginalised contingents of the community are faced with ingrained disempowerment in participatory spaces which is difficult to overcome
Thesis (M.A.(Development Studies))--University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Humanities, School of Social Sciences, 2016.
Markowitz, Chelsea Rae (2016) Stakeholder perceptions of public participation in development projects :a case study of the social impacts of the Mooi Mgeni Transfer Scheme Phase II, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>