Legislatures are required by section 118 of the Constitution to ensure that the public they serve participates in their activities. This mandate to involve the public in the activities of the Legislature is entrenched in South Africa’s Constitution (section 118) which stipulates that Legislatures at national and provincial levels must facilitate public involvement in their processes. Hence, public participation is at the centre of the core business of KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.
Public participation mechanisms such as multiparty committee visits and Taking Legislature to the People (TLTP) initiatives aim to ensure that South African citizens actively participate in the legislative processes by raising concerns and challenges which need government’s intervention, and are educated and informed about the work of the Legislature.
In keeping with this Constitutional mandate, Members of KwaZulu-Natal Legislature (MPLs) conduct routine oversight visits in all districts of KwaZulu-Natal to gain first-hand information about the state of service delivery in the province. In doing so, the Legislature facilitates public involvement by giving ordinary people a platform to raise issues that affect them as citizens of the province. In many interactions with the public, issues of service delivery dominate such engagements. This is not surprising given the fact that KwaZulu-Natal is vast with its majority citizens living in rural areas which are under-developed.
Multiparty oversight visits
In October this year, Members of KwaZulu-Natal Legislature visited Zululand District in the Northern part of the province to inspect the state of service delivery in this vast rural district. It was a third visit to Zululand with the first one having taken place in 2010, and for a second time in 2012. The multiparty committee visited all five local municipalities, namely, Abaqulusi, eDumbe, uPhongolo, Nongoma and Ulundi to track progress on the implementation of various projects that were identified in 2012. During the visits, communities were given a platform to engage with the MPLs, departments and municipalities on service delivery issues and concerns. The visits were also used to hold departments and municipalities to account for the slow pace to implement service delivery projects in communities.
In Zululand District, the multiparty delegation visited almost 50 projects that were identified in 2012 as needing special focus in order to fast-track service delivery in communities. The projects include rural housing, roads, clinics, farming, electricity, schools, water and sanitation. Some notable improvements were identified in the implementation of these projects by departments and municipalities as most of them had started to benefit communities. However, a sizeable number of projects had not been completed as planned due to a number of reasons such as inadequate budgets, corruption, contractors leaving the sites incomplete, and lack of project management skills at local level.
Oversight visits also aim to resolve implementation challenges and to improve transparency and accountability regarding service delivery. The multiparty delegation comprises of representatives from various political parties in the Legislature, administrative support staff, departmental and municipal officials visiting selected projects in each local municipality. These public participation endeavors also include feedback sessions on issues raised during the previous multiparty delegation visits and Taking Legislature to the People.
Taking Legislature to the People
The multiparty oversight visits culminated with the entire Legislature holding a sitting in Nongoma municipality on 29 and 30 October, where a comprehensive report on the state of service delivery in Zululand municipalities was presented and debated by MPLs. The sitting was attended by thousands of people from Zululand municipalities, who got the chance of engaging with MPLs, MECs, and Mayors regarding service delivery concerns in their areas. As the province currently faces severe drought, it was not surprising that most people complained about water shortages in their areas. This has had a negative impact on farming resulting in the death of livestock and crops. They urged government to come up with short-term solutions and provide relief to drought-stricken communities in order to prevent famine and diseases.