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Bringing the Legislature and people closer

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“Public participation is integral to democracy in that it enables the public’s involvement in government decision-making.”

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature and the Democracy Works Foundation (DWF) with the aim of improving public participation and access to the provincial legislation by local communities regarding their health and safety concerns.

The memorandum, signed yesterday, symbolises the partnership between the Legislature and DWF in supporting the working relationships between community-based civil society organisations (CSOs), that often represent the needs of vulnerable members of the community, and the Legislature.

“We are pleased to be collaborating with the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature to assist CSOs to participate more effectively in public participation processes, and to bring communities and provincial legislatures closer together,” Democracy Works Foundation director Olmo von Meijenfeldt, said at the signing.

“Public participation is integral to democracy in that it enables the public’s involvement in government decision-making.”

The Civil Society Participation in Provincial Legislature project (SA CSSPL) is co-funded by the European Union. It aims to help community-based civil society organisations to use the public participation opportunities that provincial legislatures offer. The project also aims to support provincial legislatures in their efforts to improve public participation by communities and CSOs.

The memorandum lasts for the duration of the project, ending on November 30, 2020.

“CSSPL works to deepen democracy through the avenue of public participation – legislatures are important vehicles for people to make their voices heard and shape democracy beyond an ‘x’ on the ballot paper during elections,” DWF South Africa programme manager Mira Dutschke pointed out.

The collaboration has important benefits for communities.

Through training and mentorship, the project empowers CSOs to take advantage of the participation opportunities in government processes. This enables CSOs to communicate pressing problems faced by communities to the provincial legislatures.

The collaboration also assists the provincial legislature through raising awareness about its work, enhancing capacity among legislature staff and MPLs, establishing constructive working relationships with local civil society and deepening public trust in the legislature.

Expressing her appreciation for the partnership, the Speaker of the Northern Cape Legislature, Newreen Klaaste, highlighted the importance of communities knowing and understanding how the Legislature and government operated.

She added that it would also assist the Legislature in understanding what it wanted to achieve and play a role in decreasing the number of service protest actions.

“We need foundations like these that will assist us in informing community members about the legal processes they need to follow,” said Klaaste.

She emphasised that public participation processes must include more communities.

“Let this not be only a partnership as signing MOUs is very costly, but serve to educate the Legislature staff and the community.”