Activists concerned

Cape Argus
Monday 1st July, 2013

Council chief tries to calm fears on shake-up in public participation

THE DA in the City of Cape Town says it has no intention of curtailing public engagement, and that repealing a participation policy would make it easier for residents to be involved.

A proposal to repeal the city’s 2009 public engagement policy was withdrawn from the agenda of the May council meeting. But the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance said it should not have been there in the first place.

Alliance chairman Len Swimmer said repealing the policy would be a “potential blow to democratic local government”.

The alliance was also concerned about a proposal to centralise planning approvals and decisions in the office of one official, also on the May agenda.

In a letter to mayor Patricia de Lille, Swimmer said the two items, if adopted, “would have virtually shut down entirely the present space for public participation” in the city.

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson said there was no intention to abolish public participation.

“It is a requirement in law and a basic principle of the DA” he said.

“The issue is whether it can be carried out in a more streamlined way than in the current council policy”

According to the report the council was to have considered, there is no legal basis for the 2009 policy.

The executive director of compliance and auxiliary services, Gerhard Ras, said: “The process is… clumsy and lengthy and has caused delays in respect of council’s policy, by-laws and decision-making processes

The new proposal would allow the mayor to decide on the way that public engagement should take place.

Paul Hoffman, of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, said any attempt by a local government to cut out public participation would be unconstitutional.

Neilson said the DA caucus had asked for the item to be submitted to the council only if it complied with public participation guidelines in local government legislation.

 

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