Once again, the voice of civil society has not been heard in the 2012/13 budget presentation. Minister Gordhan emphasised the partnerships that were required to be brokered between government and the corporate sector, but there was a deafening silence over the critical role that the NGO sector plays in assisting government to meet the societal needs of the people of South Africa.
While Minister Gordhan spoke of the expansion of the Extended Public Works Programme, NGOs working in the areas of vocational training and skills development, particularly for school leavers and youth, continue to struggle to access government funding to support their efforts. These efforts by civil society organisations ultimately seek to augment the Expanded Public Works Programme, but there was no acknowledgement of this synergy, which points to one conclusion - the South African government is not taking cognisance of the enormous societal benefits that our sector has to offer.
The same can be said for the area of Early Childhood Development, where government has reiterated its commitment to improving service delivery, with little thought to the mode of that delivery – the vast network of NGOs working towards improving the conditions and standards of early learning services across the country.
Additionally, the sector has much to offer in terms of creating employment through its interventions and is an impressive repository of knowledge of the development of the country. If government sees South Africa as a developmental state, it needs to acknowledge this resource and make use of it in its planning and implementation.
The question that all NGOs should be asking Minister Gordhan at this time – is there a place for the non-governmental organisation in his new South Africa? When it is these very organisations that are undertaking development work in the communities that the government professes to serve.
Catholic Welfare & Development