Legislatures around the world are finding ways to do their work and be transparent to the public by using online technologies, South African civil society is asking: are ours ready?
On 25 March 2020, a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) working towards open and accountable legislatures, with a vested interest in promoting participatory democracy sent a letter which sought to engage Parliament prior to the period of lockdown. The letter made several recommendations to ready the institution and legislatures to continue their work into the state of disaster.
Following a lack of response to the original letter, these organisations and others have today written again to the leadership of national and provincial legislatures appealing to them to ensure transparency, effective legislative oversight, and public engagement during the national state of disaster. The organisations have also again offered to support the legislatures as they grapple with some of these difficult, but critical questions. The letter makes the following 10 recommendations:
1) The legislatures must consider and make available public information on what measures will be taken to ensure that all constitutional obligations of the legislatures are fulfilled during the period of the national disaster.
2) The legislatures’ work during this time must be structured and systematic.
3) Legislative committees must immediately resume their oversight functions over the executive through committee meetings. The committee meetings must be recorded or live streamed to allow members of the public to participate.
4) All business of the legislatures must be conducted with due regard for the constitutional imperative of openness and transparency.
5) Legislatures must meet their responsibility to notify the public of their pending and planned work.
6) Information channels and technological solutions must be effectively employed to allow for oversight work to continue, and to directly communicate with, and facilitate interactions with the public.
7) We request that all political parties release their constituency lists, and that the contact details of MPs, MPLs and constituency offices be made easily accessible to the public.
8) Legislatures must put mechanisms in place to ensure that issues raised by the public through their constituency MPs or MPLs are dealt with through legislative committee structures.
9) Legislatures must provide official information and reports of constituency work being undertaken by elected representatives during the scheduled constituency programme.
10) Legislatures must consider by what means they will invite public participation in their work during this time – we especially encourage the use of community media forums for provincial legislatures.
CSOs look forward to responses from Parliament and the legislatures to our suggestions, and will continue to engage, and be available to assist and support our legislative structures.
To read our letter in full click here.
For media enquiries or comment contact:
Vivienne Mentor-Lalu | Dullah Omar Institute | firstname.lastname@example.org | 082 494 0788
Kimera Chetty | Helen Suzman Foundation | email@example.com | 066 270 9781