Khulumani’s tools to hold local government accountable

An Interview with Marjorie Jobson, National Director of Khulumani Support Group Johannesburg, October 2009

Claske Dijkema, October 2009


  • government accountability
  • empowerment
  • conflict transformation
  • violence
  • South Africa

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Khulumani has expanded its programme to ensure accountability of the private sector to include the public sector. In the interview Marjorie Jobson explains that: “our work is about changing power dynamics so that elected officials serve their electorate and do not continue to keep removing themselves from contact with that electorate, and it is about accountability”

Khulumani works in partnership with the University of the North West in a programme in which Khulumani members have administered surveys to evaluate the state of preparedness of local government employees and offices to deal with natural disasters related to climate change.

It has also started a process of educating member groups in the use of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to access information about government plans and budgets for implementation in local areas, so that they can try to hold them accountable for their own plans and actually make them much more collaborative in the way that their programmes operate. Marjorie Jobson notes that this has been incredibly empowering for their membership that has never been accustomed to accessing government information, given South Africa’s history of secrecy by the apartheid government and its failure to involve citizens in programmes and plans.

She further explains that: “Local governments across this country have never disclosed the budgets they have and what they committed to doing with those budgets. So because there hasn’t been any accountability, there has been a history of funds mismanagement and problematic procurement procedures along with the receipt of payments that have deprived local communities of much-needed budgets and have siphoned off public funds into private pockets.

So this is a program that we have been pursuing very rigorously because rather than having people just burn down infrastructure which takes years to put in place, because of local government failure to actually meet local needs, we are trying to say that there are other ways in which you can be very powerful and in the process members can learn a range of skills that can be used to change the power dynamics with people who are in political positions.”