Isandla Institute will host a Roundtable dialogue on 21 June 2012 titled "Advancing active citizenship: A Citizenship Academy as a means to strengthen local democracy?"
The consolidation of political participation and representation presupposes an active, engaged public that is able to claim rights, negotiate priorities and accept negotiated outcomes. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, dominant political cultures and institutional realities in South Africa militate against such an active citizenry. In the formal political arena of representative democracy, issue of substance tend to degenerate into mudslinging across party political lines. And the highly lauded edifice of public participation in local government is more often than not reduced to a symbolic, procedural and instrumentalist approach which at best results in wish lists where communities have little exposure to constraints, tradeoffs or priority setting. In addition to service delivery concerns, the lack of real influence on local decision making, combined with weak and seemingly unresponsive local leadership, are critical factors that serve to fuel recurring spates of community protests across the country.
The National Planning Commission's National Development Plan picks up on this issue. The NDP proposes the establishment of a Citizenship Academy at municipal level whose role would be to promote citizenship education and training to strengthen community organisation, planning and project management skills and competencies.
This Roundtable therefore will discuss the notion of a 'Citizenship Academy' and whether it is a suitable means to cultivate and support (non-partisan) leadership from below.