Discussions with Innocent Mngomezulu Intern at National Treasury & Mbekezeli Benjamin of Equal Education Law Centre
Hi Innocent and Mbekezeli, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Innocent: I am a 25 year old working as an intern at the National Treasury.
Mbekezeli: I am a 27working as a legal advisor at the Equal Education Law Centre in Cape Town.
Prior to attending the 2-day training in Polokwane what was your preconceived ideas about the vulekamali events?
Innocent: I expected it to be an intense budget training event.
Mbekezeli: I am used to working in community-outreach events where community activists who work on different issues come together. I thought that this would be the same.
‘I was pleasantly surprised by the mix of participants, from students, government officials, researchers and, naturally, community activists.’ — Mbekezeli
The purpose of the vulekamali civic information drives is to introduce communities in provinces to vulekamali. Do you think this is being achieved?
Innocent: Definitely! Especially on the vulekmali portal part. I think providing more information on how to utilize the information on the portal would be very helpful to the public.
Mbekezeli: I think it was achieved but there is plenty of room to improve. I think the volume of information shared, and the short space of time in which it was shared, did not allow people to get a firm introduction to Vulekamali and its purpose.
There were well over 60 participants who attended the budget training, what do you think about the mixture of attendees?
Innocent: I do think the mixture was good if you’re doing it for civil society then you definitely have to target everyone in order to incorporate all voices.
‘Having people from academia really helps to know what’s been happening around the country and the world, things we are not aware of but only discovered through research — new ways in which we can approach certain issues in society. Having NGOs as well really helps you get an insight about their communities etc. Having all of that mixture helped get the word out there and to actually know what different communities need and how they fit in this whole initiative.’ — Innocent
Mbekezeli: Yes, the mixture was good. It allowed different people to bring their experiences to the room and learn from their peers. It was impressive to see community activists leading conversations on budget and expenditure monitoring, and researchers listening attentively. In any context in South Africa, it would normally be the other way round.
Did you have an opportunity to engage with groups over the 2 days? If so, what was your take on the group you had joined?
Innocent: I did engage with groups. I feel there’s still more to be done in terms of teaching the public about budget information. The training was adequate, however, going forward, we need to push more on using the portal so that people know how to engage with the information at their disposal and which approach to take to have their voices heard in the fiscal issues of this country.
Mbekezeli: I engaged with all the groups as a facilitator. It was pleasing to see people working together on the activities, and grappling with the challenges.
vulekamali is a budget data portal which aims to make budget information more accessible to citizens, having worked in the group, do you feel it is reaching this goal?
Innocent: Yes! At this stage, I think it is reaching that goal.
All that needs to happen now is get the word out there and keep improving the information on the portal and create more space for engagements with the public. And also find other ways to get the information to disadvantaged communities. — Innocent
Mbekezeli: I think, for the most part, people understood that Vulekamali is a useful source of information on budgets and finances. I think in future people could also benefit from understanding what uses they could put budget information to, and also how they may influence the budget process (I got a sense that people felt powerless in influencing how the budget is drawn up).
Thank you to Innocent and Mbekezeli for sharing their thoughts on the 2-day budget training in Polokwane. We will be hosting another budget training event in the North West Province on the 24 and 25 of October 2019. If you are interested in this event or knowing more, please see events on vulemali.gov.za.