This article explores the extent of public participation in the legislative, oversight and accountability mandates of Parliament. From the analysis of data on public participation in the work of Parliament the key conclusion is drawn that the current state of public participation is almost exclusively focussed on the legislative mandate and that public participation in relation to the accountability and oversight mandates of Parliament is extremely limited.
Defining a new legal order for South Africa based on the Constitution after 1994 required Parliament to finalise hundreds of pieces of legislation in a relatively short period of time. In completing this momentous task, the oversight mandate of Parliament was neglected and consequently public involvement in respect of Parliament’s oversight mandate. However, the lessons learnt and jurisprudence that has emerged from the 15-year focus on legislation has provided valuable guidelines in deepening participatory democracy in South Africa. The right to public participation in the work of Parliament has now been consolidated based on the Doctors for Life and King decisions, which are discussed in the article. The next challenge is for the public to utilise this right in order to support and strengthen the manner in which Parliament fulfils its oversight mandate.