On 29 September 2015, the Dullah Omar Institute held a roundtable discussion that explored whether working with South African Legislatures is still a valuable investment for civil society. The discussion, “ South Africa’s Legislatures in 2015: What’ the point?” used research done on public participation trends for the portfolio committees on Police, Basic Education and Health as one of the resources for the discussion. The findings provide an in depth view of the number and nature of the meetings, issues on which there were public hearings and stakeholder inputs, who participated in these engagements and more.
Through the input by different civil society representatives it became clear that the experiences of NGOs working with committees are uneven – it depends on the chairperson, members, issue and committee workloads. These NGOs were encouraged to establish relationships with committees, to lobby and not to wait to be invited, but to be proactive and follow through. Some also raised the notion that public comments have become a perfunctory exercise and views of civil society are not really taken on board. Access to information is critical and provincial legislatures are not used to being monitored. Meetings would often be close during deliberations and their websites lack information. There is certainly still value in working with legislatures, but there is also a need for Parliament to review the implementation of legislation that it passes. For a snapshot of public participation trends, see infographic below:
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