Praxis: a civil society pilot reflective action in expanding spaces for participation and engagement between civil society, political parties and institutional spaces for advancing social, economic and political alternatives in South Africa
Since its inception, SPII has worked closely alongside the executive, through constructive criticism, recommendations and engagement with appropriate line departmental officials who are invited to form part of the reference teams that guide our various research projects. In addition to project –related work, SPII is a very active participant in NEDLAC, as a key member of the Community Constituency (CC). As part of the Committee of Principles (COP) and lead negotiator for the CC, SPII has been integral in the recently concluded three year National Minimum Wage (NMW) negotiations. We are currently involved in a long anticipated negotiation process to interrogate the establishment of a comprehensive social security system at NEDLAC.
It was a deliberate decision at SPII’s inception to work with the executive in an attempt to utilise our research to engage in advocating for the crafting of better, more pro-poor and inclusive policies informed by robust empirical evidence . While this continues to be a tactic of our work, we have also realised that much policy is developed in a top down manner that is informed by the priorities contained in the ruling party’s election manifesto. This then informs the priorities and the objectives of the administration’s five year Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), and subsequent Cabinet priorities. Strategic reflections on our practice has led SPII to include the legislature as a site for our empirically based advocacy. The reason for this is multi-fold:
- The legislature has a constitutional mandate to oversee the work of the executive, including in the realisation of the rights contained in the Constitution.
- In recent times we have seen that Parliament, particularly at portfolio committee level, has become far more critical in exercising its oversight mandate.
- With regard to our interventions with the executive, we have observed that officials are not empowered to engage in policy deliberations in any form, apart from through NEDLAC, which is a platform that we already engage at. Rather, this is a function that appears to be entirely within the purview of cabinet, which of itself is closed to public engagement.