Public Participation and Petitions

Introduction

The Public Participation and Petitions (PPP) Unit was established to comply with the constitutional imperative that a provincial legislature must facilitate public involvement in all its legislative and other processes. The framework which governs the PPP Unit draws from:

• The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, in particular Section 118; Section 17 and Section 115(d)
• The KwaZulu-Natal Petitions Act, 2003, Act No 4 of 2003
• The Standing Rules of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature

What is Public Participation?

Public participation is defined as the involvement of the public or communities in legislative processes, oversight, issues of governance affecting their lives (Acts, Bills and/or public hearings) and activities by the committees of a legislature.

Public participation is a political, voluntary and consultative process through which members of the public, directly or indirectly, share in the process of governance.

Public participation gives a face to the Legislature and familiarises Members of Provincial Legislatures (MPLs) to the public whom they have been mandated to represent.

Public participation gives members of the public an opportunity to express their views and be informed on government processes and programmes.

What are the Advantages of Public Participation?

• It promotes interaction between the public and legislators, thereby bridging the gap between public representatives and communities in the province.
• It provides a platform for the public to participate in and express their views on service delivery and issues affecting their lives.
• It educates the public on legislative processes and popularises legislatures and their functions.
• It provides a mechanism to generate feedback from the public on their experiences of service-delivery.
• It provides a platform for the public to participate in law-making processes (Bills) and oversight.
• It is a consultative process.
• It allows for access to information which the public would not normally be in possession of.
• It promotes transparency and accountability in governance.

Approach of KZN Legislature to Promoting Public Participation

The KZN Legislature, as a leading role player in promoting public participation, devised two constructs through which they approach public participation, namely:

• The Standing Committee on Private Members’ Legislative Proposals, Public Participation and Petitions to handle public involvement and petition issues, and
• The public participation strategy of the KZN Legislature.

Responsibilities of Standing Committee on Private Members’ Legislative Proposals, Public Participation and Petitions

The KZN Petitions Act requires the standing committee to take responsible steps from time to time to:

• Inform the citizens of KwaZulu-Natal of their rights in terms of the Act;
• Inform the citizens of the province of the physical address, postal address, electronic address or fax number through which petitions may be submitted;
• Exercise maximum accountability and transparency in the consideration of a petition;
• Where appropriate or if requested to do so by the petitioner, resolve a dispute, reverse and act or rectify an omission by means of mediation or negotiation;
• Lodge a complaint with the Public Protector, where appropriate, if the conduct of a person or body to whom a petition has been referred is unsatisfactory;
• Assume a supervisory role in respect of an administrative support service by issuing directives in respect of preliminary investigations;
• Conduct an impact assessment on the efficacy of the processes of public participation and petitions;
• Monitor the organising and managing of programmes and initiatives assigned to promote, advertise or popularise public participation and petitions, and
• Ensure that persons or categories of persons, previously disadvantaged by unfair discrimination, enjoy full participation in the processes of provincial governance.

Public Participation Strategy

The strategy of the Public Participation and Petitions Unit is based on the following pillars:

• Public education
• Public hearings
• Legislative excursions
• Petitions
• Co-operation with civil society organisations
• People’s Assemblies and/or sector parliaments
• Use of constituency offices

Key Role Players responsible for Public Participation
• Municipalities assist the Legislature with mobilising members of the public during sittings of sector parliaments;
• Civil society organisations form part of delegations at sector parliaments;
• NGOs provide the Legislature with participants during the People’s Assembly;
• Members of the public, including schools, churches and tertiary institutions, all take part in legislative excursions and visits to the Legislature, and
• Government departments facilitate displays, exhibitions and information stands during Taking the Legislature to the People initiatives by providing mobile offices for the Department of Home Affairs and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).

The Public Participation and Petitions Unit is guided by two strategic objectives of the KZN Legislature, namely to enhance public knowledge of the Legislature and its processes, and to facilitate public involvement in legislative and other policy formulation processes of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature and its committees.

Furthermore, the unit aims at achieving two measurable objectives, as stated in the strategic plan, namely:
• To capacitate members of the public and all relevant stakeholders on the functions and roles of the Legislature, and
• To ensure meaningful public participation in all processes of the KZN Legislature.

The main function of the Public Participation and Petitions Unit is to provide administrative support to committees of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature in the following activities:

Petitions

The Public Participation and Petitions Unit works hand-in-glove with the Standing Committee on Private Members’ Legislature Proposals, Public Participatio and Petitions to facilitate and manage the petitions process. Most importantly, the unit –

 Receives and registers all petitions in the Petitions Register;
 Opens a file for every petition;
 Prepares every petition received for consideration by the committee which may involve corrections to the petition, if necessary, in consultation with the petitioner so as to ensure that a petition complies with the provisions of the Act, and
 Conducts preliminary investigations into petitions.

In turn, the standing committee :

• Notifies the petitioner, within four weeks of the date on which the petition had been tabled, of the following:
– the manner in which the petition is being dealt with, and
– the reasons why it is dealt with in that particular manner;

 Concludes its consideration of a petition in terms of Section 13(7) and submits the petitions file and its recommendations to the Speaker.

Public Hearings

The Public Participation and Petitions Unit plays a primary role in ensuring public involvement during public hearings by means of:

 Liaising with various stakeholders, including municipalities, to ensure maximum participation, and  Mobilising members of the public

Public Education

The Public Participation and Petitions Unit has a key responsibility of educating members of the public about any Bill under discussion by means of conducting –

 Pre-enactment workshops
 Post-enactment workshops

Multi-Party Delegation Visits and Follow-Up Visits to District Municipalities
It is the role of the Public Participation and Petitions Unit to ensure maximum attendance and participation during multi-party delegation visits ahead of the Taking the Legislature to the People programme, as well as during follow-up visits after the TLTP by:

• Conducting community awareness and readiness workshops before visits take place in order to ensure meaningful participation by communities;
• Mobilising the public to ensure maximum attendance, and
• Liaising with various stakeholders, including municipalities.

Radio Programmes
The PPP Unit has the responsibility to enhance public participation through radio slots that are scheduled for chairpersons of committees.

Relevant Documents
Copies of the following documents can be obtained from the PPP Unit’s offices:
• Operational Plan of the PPP Unit
• Petitions Strategy
• The Petitions Act, Act No 4 of 2003

Contact Information

Public Participation and Petitions Unit
Office 1B-16
1st Floor: Administration Building
244 Langalibalele Street
3200 Pietermaritzburg

Manager: Mrs Duduza Gatsheni
Email: gatshenid@kznlegislature.gov.za
Telephone: 033 3557558
Fax: 033 3557773

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