Active Citizenship: Civil society outlooks on 2020
One of the unique features of South Africa’s Constitution is the role that it assigns to citizens in ensuring accountable government. We are a ‘participatory democracy’, one where active citizens play a role in ensuring that Parliament and the executive (at every level of government), fulfill the Constitution’s promise of social justice.
The exercise of people’s power in South Africa keeps a focus on the rights to equality and dignity of tens of millions of people who were disadvantaged by 300 years of colonialism and then apartheid. To this end, we are fortunate that we have a vibrant and mostly independent civil society, made up of thousands of organisations, who use advocacy, research, protest, policy development and myriad other means to campaign for human rights.
Recently, Maverick Citizen contacted over 20 social justice organisations to ask them about their priorities for 2020 and how they feel about the year ahead. We focussed on organisations who campaign for good governance and against corruption; for economic justice, budgetary and fiscal policy that fulfills constitutional duties to realise the rights of poor people; for women’s equality rights; and organisations that campaign for specific socio-economic rights such as health, education and transport. We also looked at the critical issue of the climate crisis.
We found that all of the organisations have a sober view of the challenges facing South Africa. Many expressed a growing impatience and frustration with both the government and the private sector, where fine words about equality and respect for human rights are not often matched by action. Others are angry that two years after civil society mobilised and helped to expose, and then arrest state capture, there is little evident progress, or prosecutions in bringing the corrupters to justice.
This is what they had to say.
Campaigns against corruption and for good governance and accountability:
During his Christmas sermon last year, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba called for 2020 to be the “year of the orange jumpsuit”. The call for those implicated in state capture to be brought to book is important for advancing social justice in our country. The actions of those who looted from state coffers and re-purposed the state for their own ends, has been a primary factor in derailing efforts aimed at transforming our society, and delivering on the promises of economic justice and efficient governance.
The archbishop’s call ties in with efforts by civil society and government in recent months aimed at strengthening, and resourcing the criminal justice system and ensuring its independence, something which will continue into 2020.
It is also reinforced by the efforts being made to encourage and protect whistleblowers, and rally behind honest public servants and representatives, who challenge corruption and state capture.
Civil society simultaneously needs to take a proactive approach to addressing the problem of state capture. There is a need to develop ways of strengthening parliamentary oversight and the ability of Parliament to hold the executive to account. Ideas on electoral reform should be considered in this regard.
This year, civil society should also be demanding greater transparency around political party funding and full compliance to the Political Party Funding Act, especially leading up to the 2021 local government elections.
In light of the elections, this year should also be about ensuring that capture and corruption at municipal, and provincial levels comes under the spotlight.
State capture is not a thing of the past and avenues for looting remain open. Key to preventing this is developing policy proposals for reform in areas such as governance at SOEs, around appointments and dismissals of public servants and those heading Chapter 9 institutions, as well as around public procurement.
Underpinning all this work is the need for an active citizenry that is aware of what is at stake if efforts to reform the country fail. 2020 will be a battleground of ideas and perception, as those behind the state capture “fight back” continue to use the networks that they established over the years to undermine reform efforts and absolve themselves of any accountability, by engaging in campaigns of disinformation.
Last year, the AKF and the Public Affairs Research Institute hosted a civil society conference where the areas outlined above, were considered to be focal points of action and mobilisation this year. What was clear from this conference, was that 2020 will demand higher levels of vigilance and energy in the defense of our democracy, the strengthening of broad fronts to confront the state capture “fight back”, and long-term thinking to instate mechanisms to prevent future capture. – Executive Director, Neeshan Bolton.
Corruption Watch is part of a multi-sectoral group that aims to finalise the much needed National Anti-Corruption Strategy.
In mid-2020 we will be launching an innovative “Know Your Police Station” tool which will allow members of the public to:
- Report incidents of corruption and police misconduct;
- Access interactive heat maps of police corruption trends and hotspots;
- Access information pertaining to an individual’s rights when they encounter police;
- Access information pertaining to the location, budget, resource allocation and personnel at all 1,100 police stations across the country;
- Rate and review police stations based on individual experiences; and
- Nominate an ethical cop based on individual experiences.
We will be paying close attention to the appointments of the Executive Director of IPID, as well as the Auditor-General.
As a member of the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum, we will continue to work with law enforcement and other stakeholders to probe cases of corruption in both the private and public health sector, as well as develop meaningful interventions to prevent the widespread looting in this space.
In terms of our research agenda, we will be releasing a short report on corruption in the public health system; a detailed study on the levels of transparency in various private sector companies; as well as a report on how corruption impacts women in South Africa. – Head of Stakeholder Relations and Campaigns, Kavisha Pillay.
In the wake of the successful efforts by civil society and the media to expose the extent of state capture and the near-destruction of institutions of governance, we must now confront a new series of challenges.
In particular, we must ensure that the process of rebuilding the capacity and institutional integrity of key institutions continues, and that accountability and openness become the order of the day. These include Parliament, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks as well as the Office of the Public Protector, and state-owned enterprises.
Having been in defensive mode for some time, we now need to get on to the front foot and prioritise the realisation of the constitutional vision of a society that respects and promotes human dignity.
We must ensure the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights in particular so that we tackle the huge inequalities in our society. In doing so, we must ensure that people generally, and especially those on the margins of society, are properly empowered to exercise and claim the rights to which they are entitled; this will involve extensive programmes of civic education by government, business, labour and the civil society sector. – Executive Director, Lawson Naidoo.
This will be a good year for civil activism with the activity of many years of hard work starting to bear fruit!
We believe 2020 will be a year when the NPA and meaningful prosecutions by the NPA unfold against the kingpins of state capture corruption. We believe the NPA, SIU and others are close to completion on a number of strong cases against the once powerful and politically connected elite.
This is also the year that civil society pressure brought to bear against Busisiwe Mkhwebane will see her removal as the Public Protector (PP). OUTA laid perjury charges against the PP in 2019, which appears to be being taken seriously by the authorities.
Feedback from engagements in Parliament’s Portfolio committee sessions give us confidence that the oversight mechanisms in Parliament are starting to take their role more seriously.
In mid-February, OUTA will launch and be distributing its “Handbook for Effective Government” to MPs.
OUTA will be improving it’s project management processes and structures to take on more, as well as expand its work in policy and advocacy to influence and drive the government for more efficient and workable policies for SA.
AARTO is a big project we are involved in and unless government changes tack on this cumbersome and unworkable situation, this scheme will fail as e-tolls have.
On the topic of e-tolls, we believe the plugs will finally be pulled on the scheme in February 2020. – Wayne Duvenage, Executive Director.
Cape Town needs functioning safe and reliable trains. The collapse of even a basic service due to criminal syndicates, corruption and incompetence at PRASA affects everybody every day and it is getting worse.
We don’t just need a solution to this crisis – we need a long-term vision to restructure this broken city. But everywhere we look we see incompetence, indifference and a lack of political will.
The truth is that no new public housing has been built in a well-located area since the end of apartheid and government at all three spheres seemingly cannot get this right.
Apart from two long-planned social housing projects in Woodstock, the City under Mayor Dan Plato has rolled back on every commitment to build affordable housing on good public land while new relocation camps are established for evictees.
Residents living in informal settlements remain locked in decades long limbo without security of tenure, while the City rolls over leases of our best public land, including the Rondebosch Golf Course, for the exclusive use of a few wealthy people.
The province has done no better under Premier, Allan Winde. His government continues to fight for the right to sell public land to the highest bidder while denying that the obligation to advance spatial justice is binding.
The national government, despite owning the largest parcels of land, is all but absent in Cape Town. Patricia de Lille, now National Public Works Minister is holding the best land ransom to settle old scores with her former colleagues. It’s unforgivable.
2020 is the year that the redistribution of urban public land must take centre stage. We need binding legislation that empowers communities to challenge the way land is used; compels government to actively review and redistribute land; and governs how this can be done in a sustainable, just and equitable way. The redistribution of land must be an administrative decision, not left to the whims of politicians. – Reclaiming the City Steering Committee.
We are ready for a roller-coaster ride. However, there are strong signals of important reforms. The ANC lekgotla seemed to signal the right direction on SOEs, but the question is whether it’s for real or just more talk.
What we are discovering is that state institutions are in a worse state than we thought. They don’t have the capacity. They are hampered by the lack of resources, but also by tenure and job security for bad people who were put in during the state capture era, not necessarily the leaders, but people lower down. So there’s a need to concentrate on nuts and bolts as much as on individual leadership.
PARI and our partners are in the process of forming an Alliance for State Reform, which we plan to launch early this year. We have prepared some critical research papers, which will also be launched, on issues like Reform of Public Procurement and Reform of Criminal Justice Institutions. We need an open conversation about this, including with public servants. We think it’s important that we have a memorandum of understanding with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and we are jointly establishing a research centre.
Finally we are looking into issues of land reform. We are concerned about a possible trend of townships being established on traditional land, rather than municipal land. What are the implications of this? How does it relate to the Traditional Khoisan Leadership Act, which was signed by President Ramaphosa last year and gives greater powers over land to traditional leaders Bill? These are questions we are analysing. – Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Executive Director .
The Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) operates in the SADC region with its plans focused primarily on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.
In 2020, the PSAM will engage governments and legislatures, so as to support civic and state action that builds more participatory, responsive and accountable governance systems.
The PSAM vision is to see an increased number of SADC countries displaying accountable governance that leads to improved quality of life, especially for the most poor and marginalised of communities. We are doing this through research, direct advocacy, capacity building and convening via PSAM’s Rhodes University accredited training and targeted multi-stakeholder workshops.
The PSAM will support collective efforts to build more accountable, inclusive and capable states in Southern Africa. This will include work to strengthen co-creation initiatives and learning platforms such as the Community of Practice for Social Accountability Monitoring (COPSAM).
Being a steward of the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) and a research contact point for the April 2020 release of the results of the biennial Open Budget Survey, the PSAM will continue to support efforts to promote budget transparency, good governance and accountability in Southern Africa and further afield. – Jay Kruuse: Director Public Service Accountability Monitor
Campaigns for economic justice and pro-poor budgetting:
Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ)
I think civil society must be prepared for the fact that economically things are going to get worse and this will impact heavily on campaigns for constitutional rights. The chickens are coming home to roost from the era of corruption, state capture and conservative economic management.
Sadly, in response there is no coherent economic roadmap from the government, except perhaps more austerity which will have a terrible toll on our social fabric. Tito Mboweni’s proposals, for example, are internally incoherent and conflict with other areas of government policy. – Gilad Issacs, Co-Director
At Open Secrets, we believe that focusing on wealthy private actors is crucial to promoting social justice. In April 2020, the nation will be focussed on the corruption trial of Jacob Zuma and his co-accused at the mega French arms company, Thales. These two alleged corrupt actors are an important tip of the arms deal corruption iceberg.
The likely extension of the Zondo Commission is an opportunity to drill down into the role of the many private sector enablers of economic crime (the doctors, lawyers, auditors and slippery consultants). We will also push hard to ensure that the profiteers of apartheid economic crime as well as the corporations who have withheld pensions from over four million poor South Africans are held to account.
Lastly, we need to reinsert the focus of human rights in our foreign policy – especially with regards to the conduct of corporations selling arms that are likely killing civilians in war zones. In 2020, we need to reassert international solidarity with those who suffer human rights abuses in South Africa and elsewhere as a way of challenging the forces of nationalism, populism and profit. – Hennie van Vuuren, Director Open Secrets.
Our primary aim as the Budget Justice Coalition in 2020 is to show that there are alternatives to this “death by a thousand cuts” scenario.
It is a great injustice that the democratically elected government is making ordinary people pay the price for the failures of our economic and political elites, through reduced services, longer waiting times, and delayed improvements to their lives, such as school infrastructure.
We aim to show a conservative National Treasury how to follow the rest of the world in breaking free of the neoliberal macroeconomic straight-jacket. This means the economic machinery of the state: the Treasury, Reserve Bank, Department of Trade and Industry and others working much closer together to ensure that fiscal policy, monetary policy (interest rates) and trade and economic policy operate together much more effectively.
We need to ditch the dogma that many high-ranking government officials were taught at school in the 1980s and move in the 2020s, where everyone from the International Monetary Fund to the World Bank has acknowledged that dealing with inequality is a prerequisite for sustained economic growth – not the other way around. We will also continue to engage with Parliament on budget formulation and execution, as well as with other oversight institutions and mechanisms, such as the Auditor General’s office and the Finance and Fiscal Commission. – Daniel McLaren, BJC Steering Committee member.
Campaigns for women’s rights: