The Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Amos Masondo and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will on Monday, 18 July relaunch a remodeled ZOJAZEM Parliamentary Constituency Office (PCO) which is in Soweto in the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality.

ZOJAZEM is an acronym of names of sections of Soweto, a township with a very rich history of struggle against the system of apartheid. The sections are: Zola, Jabulani, Zondi, Emdeni and Motlana.

ZOJAZEM PCO, is Mr Masondo’s PCO and is the second to be launched in a remodeled version that aims to rekindle the connection between these frontline offices of Parliament and citizens, particularly young people.  

The first remodeled PCO which was launched in April was Ms Mapisa-Nqakula’s Makhanda (Grahamstown) PCO. The PCOs of the Deputy Presiding Officers of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, will be launched later this year.

The relaunch programme of the PCO is part of a broader ZOJAZEM constituency outreach programme. The programme forms part of the Mandela Month activities.  The programme will be started by cleaning and greening activities at the Vilakazi High School in Soweto. It will also include planting fruit trees and other trees and painting the school.  

The PCOs are part of a structural framework developed to enable Members of Parliament (MPs) to engage people in an unmediated and humanising dialogue on their concerns and aspirations. These local points of direct engagement between MPs and citizens assist in Parliament’s executive oversight function, by working with people to track and follow up on all undertakings made to the people, and ensure the responsiveness of their government.

Over the past five years, surveys conducted as part of Parliament’s monitoring and evaluation system showed the PCOs’ declining performance outcomes. The public and stakeholders flagged their dissatisfaction with these offices and called for a turn-around and increased effectiveness. In response, Parliament revised its Public Participation Model and placed at the centre of its execution the re-imagining, repurposing and remodeling of PCOs to truly serve as Parliament’s vibrant extension offices that are accessible and alive with activities that bring MPs and citizens together on development and governance.

The ZOJAZEM PCO is an example of an integrated parliamentary extension office, representing all three spheres of the legislative sector. The ZOJAZEM PCO is responsible for six wards with a population of 176 000 people. The PCO’s programme engages all categories of the people of Soweto through advancing legislative work, promoting optimal participation in elections, strengthening multiparty constitutional democracy, empowering citizens on constitutional matters and to exercise their rights in a manner that is consistent with democracy, as well as parliamentary outreach programmes.  

The PCO programme for Mandela Month included a series of activities, including summits focused on finding solutions to electricity supply, fighting crime, greening and cleaning community facilities such as schools, citizen empowerment and participation of all segments of society in the community development agenda.  

A PCO takes a unique character that is informed by the material conditions of the constituency it serves. However, the PCO turn-around campaign, led by Parliament’s Presiding Officers to execute the sixth Parliament Strategic Plan, seeks to ensure that minimum performance standards are met by each PCO.

Currently, the functioning of a PCO is marked by uneven development and resourcing, and varied degrees of meaningful citizen and stakeholder participation in parliamentary processes and activities. The PCO repositioning campaign is backed by the rollout of a comprehensive public education and communication strategy, to ensure improved awareness about the PCOs, better understanding of their roles and responsibilities, appreciation of their performance and value, and increased citizen involvement.  

Parliament’s PCO re-imagining, repurposing and remodeling programme is premised on an understanding that the three spheres of government are at the core of successful cooperative governance, as envisioned in the Constitution. It is when numerous role-players are in synch that the scope of parliamentary work, its reach and impact multiplies.   

By Mava Lukani

17 July 2022