Why formal advocacy is needed in a growing democracy

SOUTH AFRICA - Cape Town - 18 September 2019 - President of RSA Cyril Ramaphosa will address a Joint Sitting of both Houses of Parliament - the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on a matter of national importance, violence against women.Photograph:Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

In the first five months of 2018 a total of 144 service delivery protests were recorded with the Eastern Cape, followed by Gauteng and the Western Cape provinces having the most protests. All of these protests and marches are generally peaceful and are done under the watchful eye and protection of the South African Police Service. All these protests to National Parliament, Provincial Legislatures and Municipalities end with a Memorandum being handed to the most senior public representative.

South African politicians at all three tiers of government are also fairly accessible and regularly meet with stakeholders where they table their departments’ plans and receive comment on it. The important question is what happens the following day after the march, protest, handing over of a memorandum and imbizo?

As the Progressive Professionals Forum, we believe that marches and imbizos are important for civil society to voice their opinion on a particular issue. However, it is not the panacea which will ensure that a policy or particular legislation is altered or amended to reflect the wishes of a particular sector of society.

Even if a sector of society has convinced a public representative to support a small but key nuance which will affect a policy or law how do we ensure that it remains top of mind with the politician in the midst of the many other issues s/he deals with. How do we ensure that the change proposed is affected in the shortest space of time, which in government time can be anything from two years and beyond?

South Africa also has a robust public participation process. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa makes provisions for public participation in the National Assembly, the NCOP and the provincial legislatures in Sections 59, 72 and 118 respectively.

It provides for facilitation of public involvement in the legislative and other processes of the legislatures and their committees. The respective Houses or committees must conduct their business in an open manner. The NA, NCOP and provincial legislatures may only exclude the public, including the media, from a sitting of a committee where it is reasonable and justifiable to do so in an open and democratic society. 

To quote “Section 59 – Public access to and involvement in National Assembly. The National Assembly must: (a) facilitate public involvement in the legislative and other processes of the Assembly and its committees; and (b) conduct its business in an open manner, and holds its sittings, and those of its committees, in public, but reasonable measures may be taken to (i) regulate public access, including access of the media to the Assembly and its committees. “

The Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) believes and submits that progressive organisations and representatives of civil society have not fully utilized Section 59, 71 and 118 of our constitution. We have witnessed how other organization diligently attend Portfolio Committees of Parliament, tender submissions and potentially alter laws in the absence of not enough or no alternative submissions. Section 59 is the next day after the march or imbizo. But Section 59 requires focused, well researched and well capacitated advocacy. 

The work of the PPF Policy, Advocacy and Research (PAR) Unit will shape policy and legislation on economic transformation issues. The PAR Unit will in a very focused and formal way monitor law making and policies; draft, submit and advocate for changes; additions and amendments to legislation and policies and monitor progress on an ongoing basis. The PPF PAR Unit will track, monitor and conduct ongoing and rapid response advocacy on developments in economic transformation; international trade; the 4th industrial revolution; ethical leadership or other such strategic issues, such as performance of state-owned enterprise and legislative mitigations, which the PPF may identify from time to time.

We also believe that in as much as the Ruling Party may have the best policies to ensure that our country and its people achieve true economic liberation, these policies at times do not find themselves properly within legislation or the implementation thereof lacks urgency. The PPF will monitor implementation of policies and where we believe that a better model exists via the hands-on experience of our members who are in senior positions in both the public and private sector, we will submit these proposals to the relevant bodies.

The PPF Policy, Advocacy and Research Unit launched on the 4th October 2019 will fulfill an advocacy role in relation to the Private sector, State and Government of South Africa. The PPF through its PAR Unit will become the voice of progressive business in the corridors of parliament. The PAR Unit will track, monitor and conduct ongoing and rapid response advocacy on developments in economic transformation; international trade; the 4th industrial revolution; ethical leadership or other such strategic issues which the PPF may identify from time to time. The PPF PAR Unit will research and analyse international best practice; utilize the skills and experience of our members and collaborate with like minded organisations in order to achieve inclusive economic growth and deep transformation for our country which all its people.

The PPF realizes and understands the importance of formal and focused advocacy. Join us as we forge ahead to our next 25 years and beyond and jointly contribute and build the country of our dreams.

Kashif Wicomb is the President of the Progressive Professionals Forum. The PPF is a non-racial, multi-disciplinary professional body which seeks to attract professionals who wish to give back, contribute to the public discourse, influence society and instill patriotism in the citizens of South Africa in an organized, focused manner.