The primary reason for the creation of the CPLO in 1997 was to provide a vehicle for the Catholic Church to make its contribution to the new democracy that had recently taken root in South Africa. The Bishops spoke then of a ‘critically constructive’ relationship with the organs of the new democratic state. This remains our key function: along with other civil society organizations, we play our part in upholding and promoting the values and ethics of democracy. By presenting the views of the Church to Parliament we also provide a conduit through which the concerns of an important constituency reach directly into the political centre. In a system based on pure proportional representation, with no direct accountability of Members of Parliament to defined electoral constituencies, this is crucially important.
In 1997 there were six civil society organisations that maintained full-time offices focused on parliamentary advocacy. Over the years, their interaction with Parliament contributed enormously to upholding the openness of the institution, and helped to shape the laws and policies that were debated there. Sadly, in 2017, only the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference, through the CPLO, still has such an office. All the others have closed, due either to organizational breakdown or loss of funding. This has weakened the links between civil society and the legislature. We believe that it is more crucial than ever that these links be maintained and strengthened.
- Political Comment & Analysis
- Good Governance
- Institutions Serving Democracy
- Parliamentary Presence