Many NGO employees face a new year without work and others are having to tighten their belts this festive season as essential European aid funding dries up, leaving the future of a number of civil society programmes in jeopardy.
The NGO sector is facing a crisis as long-time European donors curtail aid to South African organisations, partly due to the deepening global financial crisis, and partly due to South Africa’s own economic development, says the South African National Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) Coalition (SANGOCO) Western Cape.
SANGOCO Western Cape programme manager Jacky Thomas said European donors now saw South Africa as a middle income country and were shifting their focus to North Africa and more impoverished nations within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
Thomas said the situation was worsened by the global financial crisis causing European donors to be more careful about where and how they spent their money and the South African government had also cut back funding for civil society organisations.
This meant a number of civil society programmes designed to hold government accountable were either closing down or shrinking in reach and capacity, even as the controversial Protection of State Information Bill was headed for sign off.
This posed a “serious challenge”, said Thomas as it meant the ability to ensure constitutional rights did not just exist on paper was compromised.
SANGOCO itself faced funding challenges even as “most” of the 5 941 individual organisations under 15 umbrella networks it represented were facing a bleak future.
She said SANGOCO Western Cape operated on a budget of R800 000 over 18 months. This was insufficient to implement their civil society co-ordinating programmes to ensure that their members’ policies were “in the interests of the poor”.
In the last few weeks West Cape News has highlighted the fact that the Western Cape-based Rape Crisis has had to significantly scale back its operations, and Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) has been compelled to lay off almost half its long-time staff in their Cape Town and Johannesburg offices, with its key Cape Town based Parliamentary Information Monitoring Service (PIMS) in jeopardy.
Most recently, the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) has experienced a major funding blow to its whistle blowing project as its two major grants provided by the Dutch Embassy and Danish Embassy are being discontinued, said ODAC Executive Director Mukelani Dimba on Wednesday.
“Because of this grant coming to an end it means we will no longer have the resources to run the project which affect the current anti-corruption strategy,” said Dimba
Refusing to discuss the possibility of laying off staff, at this stage, Dimba said the impacts of losing two major grants “will be felt across the organisation” even though other projects were not linked to the whistle blowing project.
“The remaining resources will be strained,” he said,
Thomas said among other member organisations facing financial constraints were Molo Songolo – a critical children’s rights organisation – and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). — Peter Luhanga