The Parliamentary Liaison Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) is the official vehicle for contact and dialogue between the Catholic Church in South Africa on the one hand, and the country’s Parliament and government on the other. It provides an avenue for the Church – as part of civil society – to contribute to debates on issues of public policy, to exert an influence for the common good in areas of political, economic and social concern, and to help shape legislative and policy developments.
Objectives and social initiatives
Organisationally, the CPLO is an extension of the head office of the SACBC in Pretoria, and is located in Cape Town, the seat of Parliament. The office reports to a bishop designated as the link between it and the conference (presently Bishop Kevin Dowling CSsR, of the Diocese of Rustenburg) and accounts for its activities at the biannual plenary meetings of the Bishops’ Conference.
Formal submissions are made on legislation before parliament. These are usually written, but wherever possible they are supplemented by an oral presentation to the relevant parliamentary committee. Written responses are made to policy documents such as Green Papers and White Papers, reports of the Law Commission and the like.
Informal contact with members of parliament, cabinet ministers and senior civil servants is an important and fruitful part of the work. It is often the case that more can be achieved over a lunch or dinner, where conversation is frank and off the record, than by making a formal submission.
Attendance at parliament, on notable occasions such as the annual opening and the budget speech, and at everyday committee meetings or question time, is a way of showing the interest and involvement of the Church, and of interacting with the parliamentary process.
Networking and, when necessary, forming alliances with other civil society organisations and parliamentary monitoring groups in order to maximise resources and capacity when working on the same pieces of legislation.
A documentary information service is provided, consisting of:
- Newsletters: very brief synopses of items of interest and activities of the office
- Responses: a short, quick reaction to important events or developments in the area of public policy and political affairs
- Briefing Papers: short analyses of topical issues, be they legislative, policy or otherwise
- Occasional Papers: more in-depth analyses, not restricted to topical issues
- Research Papers: substantive documents aimed at informing the Church’s agenda on a particular topic
- Digests: short summaries of new information and analysis on selected topics, compiled by our researchers in the course of their reading and networking
Research is conducted at the request of church leadership and includes analysis of the likely effects of a law, summaries of government policy or tracking a piece of policy or legislation through its developmental stages.