An activist go-to book

2011-09-03 16:38

Sick and tired of underperforming councillors, unaccountable local government and poor ­municipal services?

A new activist guide aimed at providing communities and organisations with the information, resources and backup needed to use the law to hold ­local government accountable may just be the tool you need.

Next month the organisations which have ­published the 110-page book “Making local ­government work: an activist’s guide” will work with other civil society and social justice groups on a campaign to popularise community rights and teach people how to enforce them.

The organisations – Section27, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, the Treatment Action Campaign and law firm Read Hope Phillips – have also set up a website, www.local­governmentaction.co.za, to provide the resources online.

The project was sparked by ­issues raised at Cosatu’s civil society conference last year and is dedicated to the memory of Andries Tatane, the Ficksburg activist shot dead by police during service delivery protests on April 12 this year.

Mark Heywood, spokesperson for Section27, said they had used their own resources and a R150 000 grant from the Multi-Grant Agency Initiative to publish the first 5 000 copies of the book, which is already in demand from activists.

“After working on the handbook we realised the benefits of collaborating with other organisations worried about what is happening at local government level.

“We want to combine the guide with the hard information and various tools that allow people to act on their rights, launching the book along with a plan of action.”

The website, Heywood said, would eventually become a fully interactive facility, giving users ­access to expert advice and backup regarding a range of community issues.

The handbook and website have been endorsed by a range of organisations from the Social Justice Coalition to Cosatu to the Human Rights Commission (HRC).

They contain a breakdown of ­local government law and how it works; a guide on how to engage local government on issues; a list of resource organisations and advice offices and contacts for government and other agencies whose intervention can be used to hold local ­government accountable.

In her foreword, Pregs ­Govender, deputy HRC chairperson, said they welcomed the guide as a means of helping hold government to account for its policy, budget and delivery priorities by organised and informing communities.

She said the guide could help activists “connect the dots and ensure that government ­prioritises the rights of the ­people”.

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