The role of public opinion in the governance of a democratic state with reference to South Africa27 Mar 2015
The role of public opinion in the governance of a state depends on the extent to which it is taken into account in the processes of policy making and implementation. According to Section 16(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 every one has the right to freedom of expression. Therefore, people have the freedom to express their views, whether or not such views agree with government?s policies, as long as they do not act unconstitutionally by contravening the limitations stipulated in section 16(2) of the Constitution. Freedom of expression plays a role in policymaking. The media, prominent individuals, interest groups, and political parties utilise it to influence public opinion about particular issues. Political parties and interest groups that opposite to government also use it to criticise public policies. In a democracy, government is expected to respect and take the will of the people into account. A policy framework which indicates that members of the public are free to express their views exists in South Africa. However, the question is, does, what the people say through this policy framework really matter? In this article, it is argued that public opinion is crucial for good governance and the survival of democracy and therefore it should be taken into account in the processes of policy making and implementation.