Update from the Public Participation, Petitions and Communications Forum

The Public Participation, Petitions and Communications Forum recently hosted its quarterly meeting at the Ingwenyama Conference and Sports Resort in White River, Mpumalanga, on 06 - 07 August 2013.

Practitioners met to discuss issues regarding public participation and people-centered governance under the guise of finding new ways to get the public actively involved in the law-making processes of the country.

Discussions and presentations were held on the role of public participation in democracy, communication as a tool to enhance public involvement, the role of citizens in governance and the link between legislature and the people.

In his keynote address, Speaker to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, Hon. Lubisi stressed the importance of legislature and public participation. “The legislative sector is the sole repository of people’s hope for a better life and it represents the will of the people,” said Lubisi.

“Over the years parliament and legislatures have continuously sought to enhance and intensify public participation. This included Public Hearing and Taking the Parliament and Legislature to the People Programmes,” said Lubisi. “We therefore need the Public Participation, Petitions and Communication Practitioners to continuously breathe life into all these noble ideas and beliefs by ensuring that we improve our outreach to the people but equally ensure that we convey a message that our people can understand and relate to.”

The meeting was also addressed by the Chairperson of the Mpumalanga Legislature’s Committee on Public Participation, Hon. AF Mahlalela, who delivered an address titled “Accountability as a way and means to encourage public participation in South Africa”.

“The South African constitution offers the public a commitment to an open and democratic form of governance,” said Mahlalela. “Beyond people’s right to exercise an elective option of choosing their representative, they have the right to exercise their influence over all decisions and make government accountable for their actions and non-action.”

Emphasising the importance of accountability in Government, Hon Mahlalela maintained that the masses must be kept in minds of officials. “As we do all this work, we should bear in our mind that the masses of our people (the poor) are knocking at the door. If this door does not open, because we who have the keys are reluctant to do so, the masses will inevitably break down the door”.