Researcher Profile: R. Chibota
iCOMMS Masters Student | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a Masters student with the iCOMMS Research Team in the Department of Information Systems at the University of Cape Town. I also hold a BA Degree in Social Work and an Honours Degree in Social Development.
Assessing Public Participatory Methods/Mechanisms in the Water and Sanitation Sector
Public participation is a fundamental part of water service management and is intended to engage citizens in a constructive way in the decision making process in the sector. It is also an attempt to turn communities’ reluctance to engage with government around. A few studies have suggested that this is often due to unequal engagement practices. Previous studies have gathered that often the public are unaware of whom to report their water and sanitation faults to and that the municipalities make independent decisions without consultation.
This study assessed existing public participation mechanisms including those introduced by research team and their effectiveness in the context of South Africa. The study was based in the Eastern Cape and focused on six towns within two municipalities Ndlambe and Kou-Kamma. Focus group interviews were used as to collect data with sample size of. Community members were asked about their perception of the current public participation mechanisms in order to identify which methods are the most preferred. The responses were analysed using an adaptation of Thomas Bierele (1998) evaluation framework that uses social goals to access public participation mechanisms. This framework provided a guideline as to which goals each participatory mechanism is likely to achieve in order to identify the most favourable mechanism. For the purpose of this research , the researcher focused on the following six types of mechanisms , focus groups, public comment (telephone, interviews, and survey), public hearing /meeting, public notice ( pamphlets, loud hailer, news media) , advisory groups(ward committee) and the ICT system that was introduced through the research.
The findings revealed that currently the mechanisms of public participation used by the municipality are public hearing/meeting; public notice (Loud hailer, a few received SMSs); public comments (survey), and majority participated through word of mouth by community leaders. However, in in all six towns the most preferred methods were public hearings/meetings, focus groups, public notice particularly through the loud hailer and through advisory groups such as the ward committee. Despite exposure to new participatory mechanisms such as the ICT system as a means to report, the public prefer more traditional methods that provide face to face interaction and two way communication.