Do youth structures facilitate meaningful youth participation in local government? : a case study of Msunduzi Municipality.
Chanza, Nonhlanhla Gloria.
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As the third sphere of government, and the one 'closest to the people', local government has been given a mandate of promoting and ensuring community participation in its municipal governance. Both the Municipal Structures Act of 1998 and the Municipal Systems Act of 2000 establish broad principles as well as responsibilities that local government has in promoting a system of participatory governance. The National Youth Policy of 2000 recommended municipalities to establish mechanisms and structures for youth participation in its decision making process. A proposed local youth machinery that municipalities may implement consists of Youth Units/desks, Councillors for the youth, Youth Councils and a support system to ensure effective functioning of the above structures. Other opportunities for youth participation in local government include the IDP and Budget processes and ward committees. Using uMsunduzi Municipality as my case study, the study looked at the extent to which youth structures realised young people's participation in local government and the difference this makes to its decision making processes. A significant finding of the study was that Youth Units are best positioned to facilitate meaningful youth participation and remain the only youth structure with a potential of bringing greater youth involvement in the IDP/Budget process and ward committees. However, for Youth Units to be effective, functional and be able to play their leadership role they need both financial and human resources from the municipality. Without this kind of support they remain irrelevant and useless to the youth in ward committees who continue to remain marginalised. An understaffed Youth Unit without enough money and resources will always struggle to move youth participation from tokenism to meaningful participation in government participatory structures and processes.