What is a by-law?
A by-law is a law that is passed by local government to regulate the affairs and the services it provides within its area of jurisdiction. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa gives local government the authority to pass by-laws.
What is a policy?
A policy is a document that shows the clear direction and intention of a particular local government department, or the way in which a local government intends to deal with an issue (such as tourism, building development, transport, etc).
In this sense, a policy is the political direction of a local government, and includes clear objectives and administrative measures.
A policy usually includes a vision, goals and objectives, legislative framework, clarification of roles, and the way in which the policy will be implemented.
How do by-laws and policies begin?
Anyone (someone who works for the City of Cape Town, who lives in Cape Town, or a Councillor) may write and suggest a policy or by-law.
New by-laws and policies begin as drafts, and must pass a number of strict legal tests before they can be given to the City’s portfolio committees (made of elected officials) for debate and endorsement.
Once the relevant portfolio committee has endorsed the draft, the public is invited to comment, in writing, or through verbal presentation. The City uses its 24 subcouncils to make sure that everyone has a chance to offer comment, if they are interested in doing so.
Once the public participation process is complete, the draft is returned to the relevant portfolio committee for refinement, and then sent on to the City’s Mayoral Committee (Mayco) for debate and possible amendment.
The draft is then recommended to the Council for approval.
How are by-laws revised?
By-laws and policies are revised on the advice of the relevant department. They then need to undergo the same process of public participation and approval.
How can we tell if policies and by-laws are good ones?
A good policy is:
- supported by the public, with ideas from many sources such as staff, community members, interest groups and other stakeholders
- just, fair and equitable, based on due consulting. Policy is not only about what is popular, but sometimes it means protecting the interests of minority views too
- based on decisions backed by sound evidence and analysis
- one with clear goals and objectives that considers a range of alternatives, expresses evaluation criteria, and assesses the impact and measures the consequences of the policy
- relevant, and addresses a problem or issue that is generally perceived by the community to be a problem or issue
- one that can actually be implemented, and has a reasonable chance of achieving the set goals and objectives
- one where the results can be monitored