Democracy strengthening programme launched

2019-05-01 06:00

THE Democracy Strengthening Programme is initiated by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) in partnership with the Pietermaritzburg Office of the Public Protector and Democracy Development Programme (DDP). It is based on the principle that South Africa, as a democratic state, is and should be governed by the people.

This governance means people actively participate in planning, decision-making and policy formulation which affects their daily lives. However, this privilege is enjoyed by a few and leaves out masses of people at the community level, whose voices have been silenced through rampant systematic socio-economic and political oppression preventing them from making inputs to government planning.

The programme is in pursuit of government inclusivity, transparency and the spirit of accountability, all of which are democratic principles.

If the public (including civil society) can build their knowledge and understanding of democratic governance, human rights and policies, the public will engage in all public participation platforms to hold government accountable, follow up on government commitments, put an end to wasteful expenditure and corruption.

Policies will be informed by realities and issues from the ground and therefore serve the needs of all people.

Prior to the election of the first democratic government, policy making was a closed affair with very little, if any, public participation.

This has changed with the new South African Constitution, which asserts that South Africa is a representative and participatory democracy.

According to the Public Participation Framework: “Participation in the legislative process is open to all including the organised and powerful, the marginalised and unorganised”.

The intention of public participation provisions in the Constitution is clear – to influence government policy outcomes so that they reflect “the will of the people”. Therefore, a vibrant and engaged civil society plays an indispensable role in a democracy. It facilitates public engagement with government organs, including legislatures, and ensures that institutions, policies and laws enjoy legitimacy among citizens.

The programme will start by sharing, through monthly articles, information on what structures exist that help the public to access their basic human rights. How can they access and use these structures to resolve whatever human right violations they are facing.

It will later share with the public platforms (at provincial and local levels) that the public can influence planning and decision making and hold government accountable.

Later, it will share various pieces of legislation that govern different government entities (local government, departments, parastatals, etc.)

WHAT WE EXPECT FROM THIS PROGRAMME:

• Information shared in the monthly articles which will build people’s knowledge base and build the public voice.

• Civil society and the public will engage with government on issues of service delivery, wasteful expenditure and corruption and use knowledge gained to influence and monitor key government decisions.

• Create an enabling environment for local voices to be heard, respected and acknowledged.

• Enhance active and effective public participation and policy submissions to strengthen democracy.

The provincial government has a responsibility to facilitate public participation with regard to public policy formulation at the provincial level as a state actor; they do this through the legislature.

According to the South African Public Participation Framework: “Public participation is the process by which Parliament and provincial legislatures consult with the people and interested or affected individuals, organisations and government entities before making a decision.”

Public participation is a two-way communication and collaborative problem solving mechanism with the goal of achieving representative and more acceptable decisions.

Other terms sometimes used are “public involvement”, “community involvement” or “stakeholder involvement”.

— Supplied.

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