The ‘Moving from subject to citizen: what is ‘active citizenry?’ dialogue was held following the ‘Deepening Democracy’ dialogue in which questions around the nature of active citizenry were raised and within the context of Dr. Mamphela Ramphele’s call to South African citizens to ‘wake up!’.
This particular dialogue was an attempt to clarify the meaning of the notion of ‘active citizenry’ and to identify the challenges that face ‘active’ citizens and organisations in South Africa.
Representatives of church groups, community organisations, NGOs and government departments listened to a keynote speech on the theory behind personal agency before interacting in a lively debate focused on the obstacles to active citizenry in the country and potential ways forward. Participants identified characteristics of ‘active’ citizens to be involvement, effectiveness, self-belief, knowledge of rights and responsibilities and having a ‘theory of change’ or understanding how change happens.
The main issues that were highlighted were the lack of resources, information and education in communities that stifled attempts at pro-active citizenship as well as the different challenges that were faced by urban and rural civil society organisations.
The creative use of technology such as social media and internet forums was stressed as being a possible platform to enable civil society to make their voices heard more effectively. The importance of people understanding their responsibilities as well as their rights was emphasised as well as the need for strategic planning, discipline and determination by civil society organisations to ensure the success of campaigns.
Report by the Democracy Development Programme and the Goedgedacht Forum