Cape Towns Public Participation Process Shutting Down

The ACDP has noted and decried the decline in the authenticity of the Citys Public Participation Process.

Each year, the PPP is less genuine, informative and ‘hearing’ of the public views and concerns.  The City shows it is less willing to accommodate concerns and change plans or proposals. It is fast becoming a ‘tick box exercise’ aimed at simple compliance with the law. The more the City proceeds with its plans anyway, disregarding what the public have to say, the more the City is alienating itself from the ratepayers who fund the City, and the voters who elect the government.

The intention of any PPP ought to be, at least:

  • to inform the public adequately, allow them sufficient time to consider the matter and prepare a reply
    • 30 days is seldom enough time for the public to understand the matter, discuss it among themselves and formulate a submission
    • Affected civic representative bodies ought to be targeted for their comment, not conveniently left out.
  • to be there to answer questions and provide further information timeously,
    • Public meetings and/or engagements with concerned ratepayers ought to be the norm not the exception
    • the Councillor and senior managers of the host department ought to attend these, not just officials from the PPP unit
  • to prove that their views and concerns have’t fallen on deaf ears, that their comments are valued and have been seriously considered when the final decision was made.

See article here

Public Participation – cornerstone to democracy – Shut Down in Cape Town
The spate of newspaper articles by civics criticising Mayor de Lille on planning issues in the city, is actually the middle class version of burning tyres in the street. While electoral democracy is alive and well in the City of Cape Town, its twin pillar – public participation – has been shut down. Electoral majority affords power, but genuine participative democracy requires an investment that the City of Cape Town is not prepared to make. Meaningful public participation is a right as tested by two constitutional rulings. It’s not a nice to have. It’s a democratic right and the twin pillar with the electoral system on which our democracy is built. So when we go to vote on Wednesday, placing that cross is only half of the deal. In the absence of the other half – public participation – what we will have is only the veneer of democracy. One day soon, this will affect us all. Recently the mayor accused “privileged” people of being racist for daring to oppose her selling off Maiden’s Cove to developers (Naysayers are protecting privilege – Argus, 25 July 2016). No attempt is made to engage in meaningful public participation with affected communities. Yet this is just the latest in a long series of outcries by civics across the city: from South Road, to Kommetjie, from the Philippi Horticultural Area to the Tafelberg sale. Everyone has the right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair, but as these issues are unpacked, more layers of alleged maladministration, irrational decision making and outright illegality on the part of the city are exposed. Hence, the metaphorical tyre burning. Crucially public participation should mean the public’s contribution will influence the decision. Yet civics across the city experience time and again, that exactly the opposite has become the norm. The city uses public participation as a tick box exercise, diligently sends you a deadline for your comment, and promptly ignores your views and concerns. This has been most recently illustrated in the pending gazetting of the Municipal Planning By-Law Act – in which none of the suggestions submitted by civics are in evidence. Civics were not even invited to council to put their concerns. Why is this a problem? Recently in the case of the city vs South Road Families Association, Acting Judge Leslie Weinkove ruled in favour of the SRFA, effectively forcing the city to conduct “meaningful public participation processes”. The city had already served residents with eviction notices intending to bulldoze their homes. The city was ordered to investigate the two alternative routes long proposed by the Wynberg community. The material effect of not consulting with the community, would have been the destruction of people’s lives. This could have been you. The Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association, the civic operating in the Philippi Horticulture Area (PHA), has been working diligently to address the community’s service delivery issues since 2008. Not finding any traction with the line departments, the civic escalated its issues to the mayors’ desk in November 2012. The mayor stopped the meeting at the second slide, saying it will be a conflict of interest to support the PHA Vision Plan. A few months later that “conflict” became apparent when the mayor proposed the 280ha MSP housing development – 6,000 houses, shopping centre and private school – on our best farmland. In the PHA since 2012, illegal dumping has escalated, the whole area is now threatened by urban development and the mayor’s office has shut down communication with us the local community. Since 2012 we have been ruled by mayoral committee media statements. . A new tactic used by the mayor is funding outside consultancies – like PEDI and WCEDF – using taxpayer’s money to develop an alternative narrative that subvert local voices. This is fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The material effect of refusing to consult with the PHA community will be the loss of 150,000 tonnes of vegetables a year, and potable water for 2 million citizens of Cape Town. This is you. When we buy into the command that, “If you don’t like it, take us to court,” the material effect on us all, is that when your livelihood is threatened, you will have to have R1million – to actually go to court. This is evident by the fact that the Tafelberg sale was only stopped by a court interdict, but in the absence of funding, the paving over of farmlands in the PHA will go ahead. This is not democracy. The 2006 Constitutional Court ruling notes: “The participation by the public on a continuous basis provides vitality to the functioning of representative democracy. It encourages citizens of the country to be actively involved in public affairs, identify themselves with the institutions of government and become familiar with the laws as they are made. It enhances the civic dignity of those who participate by enabling their voices to be heard and taken account of. It promotes a spirit of democratic and pluralistic accommodation calculated to produce laws that are likely to be widely accepted and effective in practice. It strengthens the legitimacy of legislation in the eyes of the people. Finally, because of its open and public character it acts as a counterweight to secret lobbying and influence peddling.” The active civics of Cape Town engage with this principle, and gladly express the voice of those citizens they represent. The problem is when this voice is not only ignored, but actively vilified. “South Africa’s constitutional democracy is representative and participatory in its nature. The representative aspect embraces multi-party democracy, achieved through regular elections based on a common voters’ roll and proportional representation; the participatory aspect goes further than regular elections every five years in that it guarantees involvement of each citizen in public life in between elections,” Justice Ngcobo (CCT, 2008). Judge Albie Sachs a veteran of the struggle to build our democratic state commented recently: “South Africans had fought hard for their democracy and to have their voices heard. The people must speak out. Don’t give away things that money can’t buy for just another development that maybe make a few people rich very quickly while giving away our priceless assets.” Civics and communities who are affected by poor planning decisions need to get together and form a united front to democratise the Municipal Planning By-Law. The Mayor has given herself extraordinary planning powers through the current version of the MPBL that is possibly unconstitutional and will mean communities’ main recourse will be the courts. In the ongoing experience of civics in Cape Town, this city is doing nothing to promote genuine citizen involvement in democracy. Today we are going to be voting for the representative element of our democracy. But in the City of Cape Town, where the participatory element is constantly blocked, one needs to think carefully about which party will best deliver a FULL democracy as envisioned in the constitution. Nazeer A Sonday, Chairman, PHA Food & Farming Campaign
Argus 3 August 2016
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