Local Lobbying Tool Empowers Local Communities

Over the past one and half years NAFCOC has embarked on a programme aimed at strengthening the capacity of its members to lobby in their local communities. This has been done through a lobbying tool called the Local Lobby Tool which emphasises consultation and engagement between local entrepreneurs and their local governments. This tool has its origins in Belgium where it was developed by UNIZO, one of Belgium’s largest business chambers. This tool has since been customised and enhanced for South African application- the work of a multi disciplinary group of experts from enterprise development experts to business training specialists.

Close to 80 meetings have been carried out in all the provinces of South Africa with both NAFCOC members and municipality officials with the aim of drawing up priority lists of different municipalities and following up on promises made to address the priorities. This exercise has been an eye opener to many business people and local government officials, in that it has brought to fore the firm belief that the reason we have service protests in many communities is because of the absence of dialogue between local citizens and their local governments. This is further worsened by the deep seated suspicion between local citizens and their local officials. Out of this toxic conation has emanated many violent protests aimed at seeking the attention of the local governments to the plight of local communities who protests against poor service delivery.

The notion that South Africa has many challenges is a fact that cannot be argued against. That the citizenry is getting impatient with a seemingly slow programme of action is a fact that need not be debated also. But it must be emphatically pointed out, as informed by thousands of kilometres that the NAFCOC Projects office has traversed across the breath and length of South Africa that the lack of dialogue has muddied the waters in our quest for a peaceful and prosperous nation. In most communities, whether it’s Ashton, Bergville, Empangeni, Mdantsane, Mashingshing or Makopane, the matter confronting both local communities and their local government officials is the lack of dialogue and robust discussions on what they cherish their communities to be. There is lack of uniform purpose and cohesion and there is prevalent uncertain suspicion between the two. The Local Lobbying programme has assisted many municipalities to have an honest and candid discussion about the state of their municipalities as viewed by the citizens of those towns. This is a departure from the usual mantra where municipal management draw up voluminous documents with heaps of statistics that very few read and do something about.

There is still so much to do regarding local lobbying and advocacy but as NAFCOC we have crossed the rubicon and we cannot turn back. The fact that the Lobbying Tool has been accepted in many towns by both business people and the municipal management is a step in the right direction. The consultative nature of the tool has prompted discussion between local government and their local communities and there is no better medicine in disharmony and conflict than dialogue. The miracle we know today as South Africa is a product of dialogue. This dialogue should now simmer to the back yards and metros of this great nation to assist us build a nation we can all be proud of.