“HEARING THE PEOPLE ON THE STREET” TESTING THE EXTENT OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN DURBAN’S STREETRENAMING PROCESS Democratic Alliance v eThekwini Municipality  1 All SA 412 (SCA); 2012 (2) SA 151 (SCA)
Keywords:public participation, street renaming
Section 152(1)(e) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that one of the objectives of local government is “to encourage the involvement of communities and community organizations in local government”. This objective is further entrenched in section 16 of the Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000, which requires that municipalities must develop a culture of participation by the community, and create mechanisms, processes and procedures accordingly. These obligations gave rise to a number of interesting questions. One of these is whether the local sphere of government is obliged to facilitate public participation in its legislative and
executive functions. This issue was considered by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Democratic Alliance v eThekwini Municipality (2012 (2) SA 151 (SCA)). In this case, the SCA had to decide whether two decisions taken by the eThekwini Municipality to rename certain streets in Durban were, first, lawful and second, rational. Before turning to consider the facts of this case, however, it is important to note that the renaming of streets figures prominently in periods of regime change and revolutionary transformations.The process of street renaming in Durban prompted a large public response locally. The local newspaper, The Mercury, published a series of media reports and letters from the public on the renaming process. A researcher who interviewed its journalists, established that the changing of street names resulted in the biggest audience response ever experienced in the more than 150-year history of the newspaper.
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