Can people who live in shantytowns, shacks and favelas teach us anything about democracy? About how to govern society in a way that is inclusive, participatory and addresses popular needs? This book argues that they can.
In a study conducted in dozens of South Africa’s shack settlements, where more than 9 million people live, Trevor Ngwane finds thriving shack dwellers’ committees that govern local life, are responsive to popular needs and provide a voice for the community. These committees, called ‘amakomiti’ in the Zulu language, organise the provision of basic services such as water, sanitation, public works and crime prevention especially during settlement establishment.
Amakomiti argues that, contrary to common perception, slum dwellers are in fact an essential part of the urban population, whose political agency must be recognised and respected. In a world searching for democratic alternatives that serve the many and not the few, it is to the shantytowns, rather than the seats of political power, that we should turn.