Effects of the state’s informal practices on organisational capability and social inclusion: Three cases of city governance in Johannesburg.
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Despite state actors’ uses of informal practices in urban governance, their prominence in changing policy is little acknowledged by scholars. Their effects are even less examined. Such informal practices inextricably link with and impact on formal ones, and have consequences for the state and citizens, especially at the local level. This article presents three cases of contested urban governance from Johannesburg’s post-apartheid city administration. The cases reveal pivotal informal practices in response to challenges encountered in local urban governance, informed by multiple complex and (sometimes absent) formal practices, contexts, timings and players. Responding to different pressures, local-level state actors deliberately applied different sorts of informal practices. These pressures included the need to cope with immediate problems, conflictual relationships, political agendas, lobbying groups, competing priorities and resource limitations. The effects of informal practices on the local government’s organisational capability and citizens’ social inclusion are evident and varied. Findings imply that the state’s informal practices and their effects shape governance in ways that undermine or uphold democratic ideals, thus warranting more mindful scrutiny than given so far.