Mediation and the Contradictions of Representing the Urban Poor in South Africa: the case of SANCO leaders in Imizamo Yethu in Cape Town, South Africa
The formal system of local governance in South Africa has the ‘ward’ as its lowest and smallest electoral level – a spatial unit consisting of between 5000 and 15000 voters. The ward is equivalent to the ‘constituency’ in much of the rest of the world. Notably, the history of South Africa means that the vast majority of people live in ‘communities’ or neighbourhoods that are far smaller in scale than the ward, and most of these are the site of multiple claims of informal leadership by a variety of local organisations and their leaders. For example, the Cape Town ward, in which our case-study is located, includes at least five different communities, distinguished in racial and class terms. Existing ‘below’ and ‘within’ the formal area of the ward, popular practices of representation are manifested through a variety of community based organisations, more or less formalised, regulated and recognised. Some of these community based organisations are neighbourhood-specific, while some of them are federated into broader, national structures including the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO).
This relationship between SANCO and the ANC (Zuern 2006, Staniland 2008, Piper 2013), but also the ANC’s own strategy of grounding the party in civil society through its branches at the ward level (Benit-Gbaffou 2012), contributes towards the dominance of the ruling party over civil society in South Africa, and helps us understand the dynamics around leadership at the lowest level.
SANCO & ANC; ruling party dominance; lowest level leadership; communities and neighbourhoods.
Piper, Laurence & Benit-Gbaffou, Claire. 2014. Mediation and the Contradictions of Representing the Urban Poor in South Africa: the case of SANCO leaders in Imizamo Yethu in Cape Town, South Africa. Draft paper published in Van Lieres, B & Piper, L. (eds) Mediated Citizenship; the Informal Politics of Speaking for Citizens of the Global South. Palgrave MacMillan. pp 25-42