Imagine having someone decide how you should live your life. Whether it’s how much time you spend in the classroom or how much of your salary you need to pay in taxes, wouldn’t you want a say? This is why it’s important to be part in decision making in government and take the opportunity to make our voices heard.
Public participation in parliament plays a vital role in sustaining democracy. It’s even written in our Constitution that there must be public access and involvement in parliament and its processes.
“As a law abiding citizen you should want to be involved in this process which will ultimately end in the passing of laws which you will be responsible to uphold,” says Sabinet’s project manager Lynn Midlane. Sabinet is an organisation dedicated to facilitating access to information from a range of organisations including parliament.
So how and when can we give our two cents?
As we’ve previously mentioned, before a Bill is formally put before parliament, it’s published in the Government Gazette for public comment. Bills are also printed in newspapers (although quite small) and include details of where, how and by when we can make our opinions heard regarding a particular issue. “Whether it’s national or provincial legislation, these are published in the official gazettes of South Africa and are made available online or from the Government Printing Works on a daily basis,” Lynn adds. “There is usually a deadline for comments and the addresses where the comments need to be submitted to.”
But I’ve only now heard that I’ve got two cents to throw…
Don’t worry, you’re probably not alone. For most people, the idea is that because they don’t believe in government, they won’t take part in its processes in any way whether responding to draft policies, bills, attending public engagement events hosted by government or even voting in the elections.
According to Lynn, the call for public participation should be a bit louder as not many people are informed of these kinds of opportunities.
“To my knowledge there are no major campaigns making South African citizens aware of their rights to be involved in the law making process. However, the fact that the Government Printing Works now gives the public free access to the gazettes online, this information is more readily available and accessible to the public where it was only available in print format,” Lynn explains.
Where to keep in touch with policy updates
Follow me on Twitter: @_Sheilan_
Live from Parliament casts a youth lens on parliament and government, covering committees, policy-making, MPs, and the sitting of actual Parliament. Our team of youth journalists report Live from Parliament every week in partnership with the People’s Assembly and Making All Voices Count.
The People’s Assembly connects people and their elected representatives. To stay in touch with your local MP, visit www.pa.org.za, follow them on Twitter @PeoplesAssem_SA or Facebook/PeoplesAssemblySA.