Stakeholder engagement of Swiss local economic development programme at ILembe District in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa.
Dlamini, Siyabonga Arastus.
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Evidence established in the body of knowledge suggests that New Public Governance (NPG) is considered the most significant tool to effectively reform governance and to ensure effective stakeholder engagement by promoting and advocating for a developmental government. Academic work from various studies suggests that NPG stresses the dispersion of power where relevant stakeholders are permitted to participate and this participation in the matters of government is observed, and they are afforded the right to partake in resolving public challenges. Recently, the public sector has encountered service-delivery protests and protests against resource constraints and widespread corruption. Recent research has placed more focus on government developing socio-economic challenges and improving the lives of the citizens in isolation rather than on the impact this has on stakeholders affected by the challenges. This research sought to: explore the degree of stakeholder engagement in Local Economic Development (LED) policy; ascertain the actors that influence and affect LED policy development and implementation; establish what factors are influencing collaborative governance; and examine the degree of Public Private Partnership in stakeholder engagement. Utilising the mixed method research design, the study gathered data from two government institutions, two private sector institutions and five community-based institutions that are involved in Swiss ILembe Local Economic Development Programme in KwaZulu-Natal. The study conducted four in-depth interviews of government managers and one in-depth interview with the manager in the private sector. The study also conducted five in-depth interviews with community leaders. Furthermore, the study held five focus group discussions and undertook fifty-four surveys with stakeholders from the five selected divisions. The study participants were purposefully selected as the researcher targeted the Swiss ILembe Local Economic Development Programme stakeholders. The analyses showed that the programme stakeholders were not invited to participate in the programme‘s initial stages and, in their view, the stakeholder framework needs to be redesigned. In as much as there are communication links, they expressed the view that they feel as if only a few selected stakeholders are allowed to participate and be involved in the programme. Another reported challenge is that of the government‘s viewing partnership as being beneficial to the private sector only. The study outcome indicates that government must ensure that all stakeholders are invited to participate in government matters as this will permit all stakeholders to take ownership of the failure or success of government in a collective way. The key implication of this study is that it will help policy-makers and government to understand where and what causes community dissatisfaction; distrust and service delivery protests. Furthermore, these findings can assist local government to revisit how they develop and engage stakeholders in their Integrated Development Plans. Although the study had limitations in terms of the number of cases studied and their scope, it is hoped that it will provide valued practical and theoretical insight from which forthcoming studies on stakeholder engagement can draw.