In this podcast we set out the legal basis for the right to participate and spell out the municipal processes the public has the right to participate in.
Democracy means “government by the people”. The people therefore have a right to participate in municipal processes and have their opinions taken into consideration. Local government plays a key role in facilitating public participation. Chapter 4 of the Municipal Systems Act requires municipalities to involve communities in decision-making processes and to consult and cooperate with the community.
In terms of the Act, local communities have the right to contribute to decision making, to submit recommendations and complaints to the municipal council, to be informed of council meetings and decisions, be updated about council affairs, and attend open meetings. Chapter 4 of the Act also requires information to be accessible to all people.
The specific processes, which require the public to take part, are:
- Drafting of municipal legislation or by-laws;
- Drafting of the Independent Development Plans;
- Financial matters for example the compilation of the budget, the conclusion of contracts and Public Private Partnerships, and the determination of tariffs and property taxes;
- Performance management.
The ward committee is the forum where we can best engage with the municipality. There are general guidelines on how to conduct ourselves. We need to be prepared and gather all necessary information on the relevant topic. We also need to speak calmly, respect the guidance of the chairperson and be mindful of other people’s opinions. When lodging a complaint we should provide as much detail as possible.