STEVEN FRIEDMAN: Theatre of public inquiries does not give South Africans a say
If citizens want to be heard, public submissions to parliamentary committees are a waste of time and energy
There are ways citizens can influence a democratic government. Writing to an official inquiry is not one of them. By late last week the parliamentary committee examining whether the Constitution should be changed to allow land expropriation without compensation had received some 722,000 submissions, by far the most anyone can remember an official inquiry receiving. It is a safe bet that not one of these will have a bearing on the decision. Committee chairman Vincent Smith says many of the submissions simply say that the people sending them are for or against the change. He says these will be ignored, which is good news for democrats. In democracies, decisions should reflect what most people want. How many people send in a submission expressing a view is no guide to that. There is scope for rigging. The committee has no capacity to check whether people are manufacturing submissions. And even if every one of them is genuine, those who have sent them are less than 5% of the adult popul...