On 29 August 2018, the Good Governance Learning Network, a network of non-profit organisations that aims to share knowledge and collectively promote accountable and democratic local governance, published its annual publication on the state of local government in South Africa. The current issue, entitled Developmental Local Government: Dream Deferred?, allows member organisations to reflect on the complexities of development at local government level. SERI has been a long-standing member organisation of the network and contributed to the publication.
SERI’s contribution, written by SERI researchers Tiffany Ebrahim and Maanda Makwarela, is entitled “Local Democratic Space in Informal Settlements". The chapter reflects on how local communities in two informal settlements, namely Marikana informal settlement (in Phillipi in the Western Cape) and Siyanda informal settlement (in KwaMasha in KwaZulu-Natal), engage with government officials though formal and informal participatory channels to access basic services, avoid eviction and strengthen their tenure security. A key finding of the chapter is that ward councillors play a significant role in assisting or curtailing informal settlement communities' access to basic services. In essence, ward councillors act at gatekeepers to upgrading and are therefore a critical institution though which communities should advocate for the upgrading of their settlements.