Manifesto for a new Civic Participation Bylaw in Cape Town
On the 17th August 2017, eight Civic Associations in Cape Town (Bo Kaap Civic Association, Observatory Civic Association – OCA, Phillipi Horticultural Association, Pinelands Ratepayers Association, Sybrand Park Civic, Woodstock Residents Association, Princess Vlei Forum and Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance – GCTCA) met to explore the possibility of a Civic-led bylaw on participation. The meeting was prompted by our consistent previous experiences of being frustrated in our engagements with local government. All civics reported examples of problematic, unproductive and tokenist engagements, which have left all parties dissatisfied, adversely impacting on the trust of communities in the very democratic processes established by our Constitution to give communities greater voice in decisions affecting them. (click here for minutes and materials)
This initiative seeks to be proactive about the participation we would like to see – by exploring the idea of a Municipal bylaw which would set out terms for participation governing City-civic interactions. Other countries and cities have succeeded in establishing similar kinds of bylaws and systems that try to entrench more meaningful forms of participation.
We therefore see this bylaw as a civic-driven initiative intended to consolidate participative processes as part of democratic governance within a city framed as a Commons. It would be based on our Constitutional principles and provide clearer guidance to City officials about how to pursue public participation. How we get to the final outcome and exactly what form the final outcome is to take, will be determined by the Civics who drive this process. But it was felt more important to initiate the process and let the participants define the details as we go forward.
Accordingly, a first workshop on 9th September 2017, attended by 20 participants from ten civic structures (Forum of Cape Flats Civics, De Waterkant Civic, Phillipi Horticultural Association, Observatory Civic Association – OCA, Woodstock Residents Association, Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance – GCTCA, Princess Vlei Forum, Fish Hoek Valley – RRA, Electricity Tariffs Must Fall, District 6 Working Committee) brainstormed broad principles for a manifesto that could help to guide the process going forward. These are presented in this document as a series of discussion points, all focused on what we would as Civics like to see contained in a future bylaw on participation. The idea is that we will hold a series of workshops with broader civic membership, supported by some key pieces of research and informed by solid legal opinion, to further develop this document as a manifesto. This will enable us to then approach City officials who might be amenable to this proposal and to draw on other resources available to us. The Development Action Group – DAG have, for example, indicated their willingness to support the initiative, where they can, and we will try to tap other useful research and legal support. (click here for minutes and materials)