Local democracy, clientelism and the (re)politicisation of urban governance: reﬂections from Johannesburg stories
The local level is often perceived as more democratic than other levels of government, as it oﬀers citizens the possibility of directly liaising with their elected representative, and therefore hold them to account, especially on local issues that aﬀect their daily lives. Purcell (2006) has warned about the danger of worshipping the local scale, arguing it has nothing ‘inherently’ more democratic than others. However the local scale is certainly speciﬁc in the potential it oﬀers for interpersonal contacts between residents and their representatives; for a more ‘humane’, ﬂexible and locally-grounded state. This potentiality of a greater state accountability has been one of the key driving forces for decentralisation as well as local participation in the last decades, all around the world; the other driving force being also, especially in African societies, the globally-driven, neoliberal attempt to weaken or sideline the central state that is considered corrupt and ineﬃcient. In African cities, this plea for both a greater decentralisation and an enhanced participation of civil society in urban governance is reinforced by the understanding that central states do not control many of the urban dynamics currently shaping African cities (Swilling, 1997) – and local democracy is seen as the way to build democracy and achieve eﬃcient urban governance.