Madlala-Routledge cautiously welcomes moratorium on NPO de-registration

The Department of Social Development recently issued a moratorium on the deregistration of NPOs which do not comply with key legislation. Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge released the following statement. 

Madlala-Routledge cautiously welcomes moratorium on NPO de-registration

While the moratorium on the de-registration of Not for Profit Organisations (NPO’s) by the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, has been widely welcomed by civil society, we remain concerned that the government is not doing enough to actively support NPO’s rather than punish them. The government also needs to get its own house in order.

The Department has stated that over half of the 140 513 registered NPO’s have failed to submit annual financial reports as required by the NPO Act. Yet, some of the organisations that were de-registered had in fact submitted all the required documents, some more than once. Does the DSD have sufficient capacity to receive and process the reports being submitted?

The Department needs to be able to cope with the demands of the law, include providing support to NPO’s. Losing documents or putting the onus of proof of compliance on struggling NPO’s goes against the spirit of the law, which is about creating an enabling environment for civil society to play its role in a democracy.

This year, which Minister Dlamini has declared the year of NPO’s, provides an excellent opportunity for us to test our government’s sincerity when it says it supports civil society in its role, which may sometimes be holding government itself to account. South Africa will soon be taking up the reins as Chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). We would like to see the government taking advantage of this position to showcase and promote a more positive and supportive relationship with civil society.

The OGP was launched in 2011 with South Africa as one of the 8 founding members. The OGP is meant to “provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens.” OGP “brings together governments and civil society organisations as true partners at both the national and international level.

At the national level, governments work with civil society organisations to develop and implement their OGP national action plan. At the international level, OGP is overseen by a Steering Committee composed of representatives of governments and civil society organisations in equal numbers - a model that embodies the goal of civic participation. OGP’s rotating leadership group also comes from both sectors, with two government co-chairs and two civil society co-chairs.”

How will the government decide which civil society organisations will be brought into the partnership? Civil society is diverse and brings together various players, some of whom may be seen to be at odds with the government. Will those that the government does not like be invited to the table? Inyathelo hopes that the invitation to participate in the OGP will be an inclusive one, going way beyond the small circle of trusted NGO’s that the government calls civil society.

We also hope that as stated, government will take a developmental approach to addressing the administrative difficulties relating to NPO compliance.