Why don't we seek help from our MPs?

2014-07-21 14:24
Parliament (File, Dan Calderwood, News24)

Parliament (File, Dan Calderwood, News24)

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Cape Town - New research has shown that South Africans are the most politically active citizens in the world, yet we are among the least likely to contact our MPs directly. News24 finds out more.

The 2014 Global Trends Survey found that just 7% of South Africans have presented their views to a politician in the last two or three years.

It ranked South Africans as among the least likely to seek help from MPs - wallowing at 17 out of the 20 countries surveyed around the world.

The survey, conducted by UK market research group Ipsos Mori, was completed by 16 000 people in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America.

'Dissatisfied' with the government

Our MPs should be easy for the public to contact. According to the People's Assembly, R243m of public money is poured into funding some 350 constituency offices across the country where the public can seek help from their MPs.

So why don’t we contact them? The survey suggests it is not because we are happy with our lot. In fact, it ranked South Africa as among the least satisfied in the world with the way the government is running the country.

The vast majority of those surveyed - 73% - said that they were “dissatisfied” with the government’s performance and with local services.

Most politically active

What’s more, it showed that South Africans are not inactive or apathetic when it comes to political issues.

Indeed, the survey found that South Africans lead the world in social and political activism.

The survey showed that in the last three years:

- 19% South Africans had held a leadership role in a  community or religious organisation

- 24% had given a speech in front of an organised group

- 34% had volunteered time to a campaigning organisation or charity

- 35% had e-mailed or written to a newspaper, magazine or website

- 21% had attended a public meeting on a political or local issue

- 47% had paid membership fees or donated money to a campaigning organisation or charity

- 32% had helped organise an event to raise money or for charity

Constituencies not co-ordinated

MPs are elected to represent the people, and they have a duty to be available to the public and to help with problem solving.

The government itself encourages people to “contact the political party you support to find out about constituency offices in your area”.

Yet research by the Centre for Policy Studies concluded that “the process of establishing constituency offices is uncoordinated at best.”  

The CPS found that there is a “general lack” of national or provincial policy guidelines to ensure a co-ordinated approach from the political parties in providing constituency services for the public.

Meanwhile, the People’s Assembly said its efforts to find out which MPs are assigned to each office have “proved difficult”.

- Have you ever contacted your MP to raise a concern? If so, how easy was it to gain contact? If not, would you consider contacting your MP for help? Share your experiences with us.

Read more on:    local government  |  politics

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