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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An empowered voice? : an assessment of the participatory process conducted to draft a proposal for the establishment of the Inkomati Catchment Management Agency, Mpumalanga, South Africa Anderson, Aileen Jennifer


Public participation is becoming increasingly important in the management of natural resources. South Africa has recognised the link between environmental management and public participation through the passing of the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998), which legalised the establishment of 19 Catchment Management Agencies (CMA's). One of the objectives of these CMA's is to delegate responsibilities at the catchment level so that interested parties can participate. Social equity in decision-making is therefore seen as an important aspect of sustainable catchment management. This thesis focuses on social equity in decision-making, given South Africa's lack of experience in this regard. The objective of this thesis is to assess the public participation process conducted in 2000 to draft a proposal for the establishment of the Inkomati Catchment Management Agency, the first CMA in South Africa. The framework for the assessment was based on the literature of procedural justice and empowerment. The present research elucidates the context in which the participatory process was conducted, and assesses the participatory process with respect to the empowerment of stakeholders. The research methodology followed a qualitative research paradigm. Information was triangulated between 62 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders who were involved in the process, observations in the field, and documents relating to the case. The findings illustrate that the public participation process was not completely procedurally just nor was it completely successful in empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions. To assist in ensuring more social equity in decision-making, multi-dimensional learning, encompassing technical, ecological, and social knowledge of water management is recommended as a process goal. To achieve this the following mechanisms were identified as important: 1) Sufficient finances and external support; 2) Effective representative structures; 3) Creative and diverse opportunities for interaction; 4) Adequate opportunities to allow stakeholders to have an influence; 5) Transparent, dedicated, and empowering facilitators; and 6) Adequate information and avoidance of misinformation. This research offers a unique perspective on a participatory process that forms the building block for the establishment of sustainable Catchment Management in South Africa.

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