- The United Nations' agency for ICTs, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), marks today, 17 May, as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD). The purpose of the day is to “help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide”. This year the theme of the day is “Better life in rural communities with ICTs”.
It is a vital - if optimistic - theme. Over three quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas. They lack economic opportunities, have difficulty accessing basic services, have a limited voice in governance and remain extremely vulnerable to shocks. In Sub-Saharan Africa they account for 67% of the total population and rural poverty in this region is deepening. Rural areas in South Africa share similar characteristics. (IFAD Rural Poverty Report 2011)
But the extent to which information communication technologies (ICTs) have the ability to improve the lives of the rural poor is debatable. There is no doubt that the use of ICTs among poor people is growing rapidly. Coverage reaches further than roads, electricity, sanitation and clean water. ICTs - and in particular mobile technology - provide access to information and communication, complement successful development initiatives, drive innovation, and empower communities and individuals to co-create new solutions.
On the other side, however, is an understandable reaction to the inevitable hype. Competitions and challenges have created a slightly unrealistic environment - at once hypercompetitive and unsustainable - perhaps a case of the ICT4D sector mirroring the commercial tech bubble?
The slightly snarky – but usefully cynical - ict4djester.org talks amusingly of recycled presentations – tweaked slightly from pitches to VCs to Apps4Dev competitions to grant applications. This - and the more constructive Mobileactive.org's Failfare.org methodology (undefensively talking through ICT4D failures) suggests that it is difficult to actually understand the difference between a great plausible idea, and something that actually works.
Maybe. But there are some exciting and effective ICT4D projects. And it is not atypical of deeply innovative phases for there to be a flurry of projects, prototypes, pilots – and the non-profit equivalent of exuberant venture capital – inflows of grants to the field of ICT4D. And maybe it takes a crowded podium/appstore/innovation lab, etc. to separate (and the agricultural analogy is deliberate) the wheat from the chaff. And perhaps one of the most exciting aspects is that much of the hype - the events, the formation of app labs, techno-hubs, living labs and the solutions themselves - is happening in the countries and regions most affected by rural poverty. In India, here in South Africa, and even more so just up the road in Nairobi where “technology” and “technology for development” don't sound like completely different fields.
And sometimes the hype is really just a question over-promising. The pragmatic assistance of existing workflows while saving money and improving efficiencies -maybe not by an order of magnitude, but incrementally. Surveys, field logistics, event and training management, appointment reminders, crowd-sourced mapping are all achievable, useful and scalable – in the context of existing well-designed programmes. A dose of humility is useful: deploying an app that tracks and maps treadle pump sales and installations is cool (Forms! GPS! Photos!) and ensures useful information to the NGO supplying them. But it is not the app that is irrigating previously rain-fed fields...
Larger-scale successful uses of ICTs in rural development include improved access to markets, financial services and employment; increased access to education and healthcare; improvement in emergency and disaster relief; and improvement in transparency and public participation through the use of mobile phones in citizen journalism.
Ciara Aucoin has put together a great list of some of the interesting “Human Development” Apps.
And it is easy to throw around the names of projects and products that have made the field seem so exciting and full of potential - m-Pesa, Ushahidi, e-seva, eSoko - or the nascent projects just starting to bubble to visibility like Jamiix.com
But how can we try and measure the value and impact of these tools in support of rural development, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa?
So, as we celebrate WTISD today, with the emphasis on “Better life in rural communities with ICTs”, SANGONeT is pleased to announce that its 7th annual conference will focus on Information Communication Technologies for Rural Development (ICT4RD) with a theme titled, “Rural Realities, Real Solutions.”
The conference will be held from the 1-3 November 2011 at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Amongst other things, the conference agenda will include a critical review of three keywords that are constantly thrown around in conference presentations and grant applications - scale, sustainability and replication. What is the status of existing ICT4RD projects? Why are so many ICT4D/ICT4RD projects stuck in pilots? What are the secrets of those projects and products that have broken free and are successfully scaling and replicating? Is there a “development innovation curve where we can map successful methods and projects?
The conference will bring together more than 250 key innovators, implementers, social entrepreneurs and thinkers from across the developing world to explore how ICT innovations can benefit rural populations in Sub-Saharan Africa. It will assess the current state of ICT4RD projects, products and policies; create an environment for matchmaking and deep knowledge-sharing; and contribute to the successful use of ICTs in response to the realities of rural development.
The real success requirements of many ICT4RD projects depend less on great software development and more on good research, effective local capacity, influence, great networks and relationships - the types of things a good NGO does well and has done well through many developmental, technological and methodological phases.
And there's not an app for that.
Click here for more information about the 2011 SANGONeT Conference or assist us in shaping the conference agenda by sharing your views and comments on Facebook, on Twitter, or by replying to email@example.com.
Matthew de Gale manages SANGONeT’s “Mobile Services for African Agriculture” programme.
David Barnard is the Executive Director of SANGONeT.
- The Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal has urged government to create more jobs, build more houses and change its foreign policy to end xenophobia.
The Centre’s Patrick Bond points out that, “More and more refugees from Zimbabwe, Somalia and other parts of Africa are pouring into South Africa and are creating havoc in the country.”
“We simply cannot say, because the sparks that create these infernos of anger are unpredictable. We do know, however, that the underlying causes have not changed since 2008, namely unemployment, housing shortages,” argues Bond.
To read the article titled, “Create jobs to stop xenophobia: Prof,” click here.
With the State of the Nation Address by President Zuma and the Budget behind us, and the plethora of state of the province addresses for good measure, South Africa can truly said to be in its Season of Promises.
There are promises of better government from the President, a fight against corruption and a pledge to launch the equivalent of a moral rearmament programme. There is a focus on greater spending in the budget on social grants, health and education, not forgetting the provinces that conscientiously walk in national government’s fiscal shadow. But what does this all mean, specifically for the thousands of NGOs that continue to work tirelessly on the ground?
It is widely accepted that civil society in South Africa provides a substantial number of services that government is unable to fulfil. Thus, while increased spending on socio-economic and educational matters is welcome, the reality remains that countless organisations in civil society are fulfilling socio-economic imperatives because the government is simply unable or unwilling to do so.
As has been noted by some NPOs already, there was no acknowledgement of this role, or relief for CSOs in the budget. To be sure, there are instances in which government gives financial support to NPOs, such as a R12 million grant to 44 NPOs operating in the health care sector in the Northern Cape. This sounds good, but it equates to an average of just less than R273 000 per annum per organisation. That is small beer in the budget of most NPOs and will not go a long way towards enabling those organisations to provide the type of critical service they doubtlessly give.
It is a tragedy that administrations at national and provincial level seemingly live with the delusion that they are meeting the critical needs of people on the ground on the one hand and, on the other, fail to recognise that civil society is providing public services that ordinarily (and sometimes even statutorily, such as in the case of education and health) will be the responsibility of government.
The question is, therefore, why donors should be subsidising the state in the provision of basic services? People are already paying tax for these services and there is, frankly, not such a huge shortage of money. It seems to go astray between the taxpayer and the beneficiary. Besides corruption, there seems to be a huge amount of wastage or the money is simply not used. The government is meant to be the caretaker of these funds but there appears to be little care in ensuring that they are used properly or used at all. The number of departments that did not achieve clear audits, including the Presidency, shows how little concern there is for tracking money, providing paper trails and exposing corruption.
Donor funding is currently focusing on the basic provision of services – in reality the responsibility of the state. This has skewed the view of civil society from one that is vibrant and innovative, producing new ideas, new research, defending human rights, making a contribution to policy, advocating for systemic change and social justice, whether relating to the environment or gender as examples. Instead, philanthropy remains caught in the trap of service delivery, where organisations are seen as the sum total of their projects with indicators, outputs and measurable outcomes such as plates of food provided, rather than as living, thinking, advocating and dynamic structures.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Seasons of Promises have failed to live up to expectations, civil society has worked tirelessly, with many people doing so voluntarily, to address the failure of government service. That civil society organisations are able to make such a major contribution to our country is due to the support of local and foreign donors and philanthropists, and the hard work of ordinary people on the ground. Yet government continues to marginalise our non-profits from the mainstream. Whilst the unions and business are included in Nedlac, where is civil society? When the President travels abroad with his entourage, where is civil society? Is this the forgotten sector that carries the can or is this deliberate marginalisation with civil society viewed as a potential threat? Where will organised criticism of the government come from in future – beyond the realms of opposition parties in what is becoming the stifled institution of parliament.
Perhaps there is a recognition that the organisations really working on the ground may have something to say when there is no change in people’s circumstances despite the Season of Promises.
This current Season of Promises has also introduced a new element for this time of the year - the suggestion by the president of the need for a new moral code for South Africa.
Civil society, in both the apartheid years and in the post-1994 period has never departed from its commitment to the values and norms of a moral society. This is perhaps most obviously illustrated in the work of the faith-based organisations that form part of it, but has also been present in the social, health, educational, human rights, job creation and economic and empowerment programmes run by various civil society organisations. It is appropriate therefore to point out that, in spite of the falls from grace that occur in any organisation because of human behaviour, it is not civil society that stands accused of wide-spread fraud, corruption and graft. Civil society has stood firm on these issues: it is not they who have confused the culturally acceptable practice of polygamy with the damaging and disrespectful practice of promiscuity. It is not civil society that has forgotten that this is the 21st century and that over-population has contributed to global warming – that fathering more than 20 children is a disservice to everyone in this world.
Some form of moral renewal is doubtless necessary in a country in which public figures berate one another with scant regard for human and race relations, and in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer at an alarming rate. It is critical that civil society participate in this quest and that, of all sectors, they have a leading role as they are the organisations and individuals who keep the institutions of care, education and other social entities operating at the grassroots level.
- Shelagh Gastrow is the Executive Director of Inyathelo – The South African Institute for Advancement. This article was first published on Daily News website and it is republished here with the permission of Inyathelo – The South African Institute for Advancement.
- The level of crime in South Africa has evidently sent government into emotional bewilderment. This is more so as a result of the violent crimes whose perpetrators are apparently merciless and recognise no boundary. Everyone, excluding the perpetrators and those with whom they act in cahoots, is under siege. Obviously any responsible government would want to do something to curb or rid its population of such a scourge. Taking the fight to the criminals! The question is how?
It would seem from the repeated and currently famous utterances by government officials, that the immediate option at hand is that of introducing further amendments to sections 26 and 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) 51 of 1977 (as amended by the 1998 Act), so as to afford police officers the clear power to ‘shoot to kill’ criminal suspects who pose imminent threat to them or to other members of the public. A reason given for the proposed amendment was that the Act deprives police of the necessary powers to execute their job. Lately, however, the argument has shifted to say that the Act is not clear to the police and therefore it requires clarification and simplicity. The latter was echoed by Advocate Tseliso Thipanyane, chief executive officer of the South African Human Rights Commission and another panellist during the recent South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) discussion and debate programme, Asikhulume.
The killing of Captain Charl Scheepers by a thug, whom he allegedly warned three times to drop his gun; portrayed evidence of the police’s misunderstanding of the provisions targeted for amendment.
Coincidentally and ironically, on the day of the Asikhulume programme, members of public travelling in a motor car fell prey to reckless lethal use of force (shoot to kill) by members of police in Mabopane, near Pretoria. Olga Kekana unnecessarily lost her life in this tragedy.
Given these two incidences, it is evident that there was no threat to neither the police nor the victims. Based on this, one could innocently believe in the claim that the Act is unclear to members of the police. I totally disagree.
Prior to its amendment after being ruled by the Cape High Court and affirmed by the Constitutional Court to be unconstitutional in State v Walters, the Act allowed police and members of the public to use lethal force against criminal suspects. This applied regardless of whether it meant killing the suspect for pinching, for example, a loaf of bread or an apple from a store. What mattered was whether the suspect ran from the alleged crime scene and refused to stop when ordered or warned to do so. The effect of such an open-ended authority to the use of lethal force, was that it deprived suspects their human rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, which inter alia, includes the right to the due process of law and the right to life which the Bill of Rights guaranteed and still does. The amendment was applauded by civil society groups and generally by the larger population of the previously oppressed which had been the main victims of the open-ended provisions.
In its amended form, the new provision curtailed the use of lethal force and introduced a requirement of reasonableness and proportionality. This required that other alternative measures be considered and employed before using such force and reserving its use to worst kind situations. An apple or loaf thief would consequently no longer, by mere theft alone, face a possible or imminent threat to life or limb by police or members of the public. This would be so even if the perpetrator ran from a crime scene.
If the suspect produced a lethal weapon and despite being warned to drop it persists and threatens the arrestor, the latter may use the force that is proportionate to the threat. He may have stolen an apple or a loaf of bread, but the act of producing and directing a lethal weapon (e.g. a gun) against the arrestor would warrant an immediate countering. This is so even if it later turns out that the gun was not loaded with ammunition. The same would be the case if the weapon clearly looked like a legitimate gun but later turns out to be only a toy gun.
However, if for example, the suspect produces a knife and is a safe distance away from the arrestor and does not in so doing charge towards the arrestor or does not keep anyone hostage or pose imminent threat to anyone, there would be no need to employ lethal force. The same applies if the running suspect can be later traced through investigative procedures.
To the extent that members of police may not understand the amended provisions, that could in my view be attributed to lack of education and training of police (especially of those who are not-office bound and are patrolling the streets) about its provisions and not as such ambiguities in the Act. Therefore, if it is true that Captain Charl Scheepers gave his murderer three warnings before he was himself shot and because he did not understand when he should apply the necessary force, then that leaves the Police Ministry’s education and training processes wanting rather than alleged defects in the Act. For that, I would implore government to invest more resources in achieving that objective.
The history of the ‘formal’ criminal justice system in this country has shown that no amount of force has ever deterred violent crimes. During the reign of the Apartheid regime, for example, police had all the powers to shoot to kill actual and sometimes imaginative criminal suspects, at times willy-nilly. I am tempted to claim that the government of the time invested more resources in creating an emotive and provocative police force that was meant to counter, then so-called ‘black terrorism’. The police then did not belong to the entire population but to the minority government and for the preservation of interests of a designated minority population. Such police was inevitably bound to gain neither legitimacy nor support from the marginalised part of the population.
The post 1994 police authority is by virtue of the democratic Constitution meant to belong to the country’s population as a whole and to therefore legitimately expect and get its support in crime prevention, investigation and curbing. But does it get such support and if not, why?
What immediately springs to mind as a probable cause is the lack of effective and reliable or trusted witness protection mechanisms. If arrested criminals walk out of courts because witnesses were unavailable or unwilling to testify that should be a serious cause for concern to police authorities, and demoralising to the arresting and investigating officers. Furthermore, since suspects of criminal offences at times include elements within the police service itself, how safe and trusting is it for witnesses to cooperate with the investigators? To assume witnesses’ unsuspecting and unqualified cooperation with investigators would be reckless and tantamount to undermining their intelligence.
Then there are still the language and attitude factors to take into consideration. In my personal experience, I have witnessed police officers who come from communities which seem to consider their languages to be superior above others, even against the clear provisions of the democratic Constitution. In other sectors (e.g. security), members of such communities would foolishly and unashamedly tell you that they do not hear you and that you should explain yourself in their ‘human’ language, as if yours is that of an ape. Come on, come out of the closet and get civil!
In the police sector, however, there are those who would say it indirectly and a few who would openly say that they can’t hear your language – thereby suggesting that you speak theirs. Fortunately for me and knowing my rights and neither feeling inferior nor superior to any language group for that matter, I always persist speaking in my language to the police. The question is how do you entice local community members to work with police whom they consider alien and ‘too superior’ linguistically?
The approach, mannerism and attitude of some police officers only widen their alienation from community members. Imagine walking with your wife and children in the street and all of a sudden a police van pulls up in front of you and a police officer starts fondling you – while also smelling of a fermented substance. This would leave one feeling feel humiliated and degraded. Some of us do not shun committing crimes out of fear of police. We just don’t commit the filths because of the nature of our cultural and religious upbringings. We therefore do not need policing to be our good selves! As a husband and father, how does one wipe the humiliation and degradation by such a police from my own, my wife’s and children’s disturbed memories? In my case, my recipe would be to disown police generally and not come to their aid in the investigation and prevention of crime - by the same measure that I would disown criminals and not come to their aid in their commission and perpetuation of crime. The moral of this is that police must treat law abiding citizens with sensitivity and dignity.
There should also be better control of ports of entry and documentation of all people within the South African borders – these are self-explanatory and in fact, much been said about it before. Lack of all of the latter is probably the reason why some bank or business robbers would look and laugh at the surveillance cameras. One cannot help but assume that they do so because they know that they will not be easily identified.
Returning to the subject, my view is that in the absence of any ambiguity in the CPA above (which as I said there is no substance to such a claim) and the failure of the government to provide serious education and training to police about their entitlement and limitations in terms of the Act, any further public and populist uttering and threats on the use of lethal force, would create a state of uncertainty and tension in the society. Police and members of the public would be isolated from each other. As it is usually said, ‘the more things are changed, the more they remain the same’.
Considering some opposition parties and some members of civil society have always and persistently been calling for a referendum on the return of the death penalty into South Africa’s criminal justice system, with mixed reactions from the ruling party, one cannot help but wonder whether current attempts on amending the Act are not directed towards indirectly reviving the death penalty through blooding the hands of the police and not those of the would be hang man. President Jacob Zuma stated prior to his election that a referendum into the death penalty would not be a problem if South Africans wanted it.
While one understands the frustrations and responsibilities of government to protect law abiding citizens that must not however, come at any cost. Emotional and populist uttering are certainly not a way to go in solving this scourge – in contrast, this may put the lives of the intended beneficiaries (law abiding police and the public) at serious risk even more. Government must more than before, extend more partnerships with some not so formal crime busting civil society structures, who may prove more experienced in detecting and spotting crimes. It is not a sign of weakness to do so – it is making everyone feel relevant and part of the bigger picture.
Alternatively become clearer and tell us that government wants (at any cost) to revive the death penalty; render the Constitution and the Bill of Rights redundant; and multiply police roles further into court orderlies, prosecutors, judges and hang men. So far government has only achieved ‘raising its voice’ and still has to ‘develop its argument’ to persuade right thinking South Africans as to what informs the proposed further amendment of the Criminal Procedure Act.
Lesirela Letsebe, Attorney and Project Manager: Refugee and Migrant Rights Project, Lawyers for Human Rights (Pretoria Office).
- The national debate is so taken with invented ‘policy shifts’ that it ignores those that are real. This is according to Steven Friedman, director for the Centre for the Study of Democracy, an initiative of Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg.
Friedman says that in a recent television interview, Cooperative Governance Minister, Sicelo Shiceka, endorsed two policy changes that could make local government more democratic and might give citizens less reason to engage in the protests that have dogged municipalities for four years.
Friedman says however, a public debate, which has consistently misunderstood why there is local protest in the first place, has ignored the minister’s attempt to propose solutions.
To read the article titled, “Shiceka gets the message on local democracy,” click here.
Source:<br /> Business Day
- Residents of Malamulele, near Thohoyandou, have marched to the offices of the Thulamela local municipality to demand that the town gets its own local municipality.
Malamulele South African Civic Organisation (SANCO) chairperson, Foster Mtshabi, has been quoted as saying "We want to break away from Thulamela and have our own municipality. We have the support of the Malamulele Sunrise Committee, which was formed to ensure better service delivery in the area."
Mtshabi, who criticises the Thulamela local municipality for developing Thohoyandou while neglecting Malamulele, said that the latter residents are tired of broken promises made by the municipality.
To read the article titled, “Poor service: more protests,” click here.Source:<br /> News24
- Every year, GreaterGood South Africa organises and hosts Do It Day, a call-to-action event that connects people with good causes around the country. Do It Day is all about building a culture of volunteering in South Africa and exemplifies the unifying power volunteering has to change lives.
The spirit and practice of volunteering, like the values of ubuntu, where a person is characterised in relation to others, are part of the South African identity. But when it comes to the statistics, South Africans pale in comparison to their American and British counterparts: 29 percent and 36 percent of their populations volunteer respectively, while just 17 percent of South Africans volunteer their time or skills. With Do It Day, we plan to change that.
Take a day off
It is easy to make a difference on Do It Day – all you need to do is sign up for a project at doitday.co.za and arrive on 18 September. We are aiming for 20 000 volunteers working on 2 000 projects this year and we are providing a huge range of options, so that everyone will be able to find something that suits them.
Non-profit organisations have loads of jobs that need doing, from painting homeless shelters to making sandwiches for the hungry and clearing alien vegetation at animal welfare societies. Previously, Do It Day projects were only accepted from organisations that were registered with us, but this year, volunteers can nominate their own Do It Day projects.
Brains, brawn and 2010
Do It Day projects are categorised into ‘heart’, ‘head’ and ‘sweat’ projects. An example of a heart project might be reading to the elderly at a care home in your community, while an example of a head project might be using your computer skills to create a database for a local organisation. Sweat projects simply require hard work and vary from digging vegetable gardens to fixing up buildings.
As the nation gears up for the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup™, many of the projects will have an urban greening focus. This is a reflection of an age-old African tradition to clean up and get your home ready for important guests. There will also be a focus on youth development, to get our children off the streets and onto the soccer pitch.
Celebrities and CEOs
A number of celebrities and high-profile personalities will be donning old clothes and getting dirty on Do It Day and each one that signs up will challenge others to do the same. CEOs will be trading their suits for overalls and challenging their colleagues and competitors to get involved and show South Africa who’s best when it comes to volunteer numbers.
In these tough economic times, the message of Do It Day rings louder and clearer than ever – everyone has something to give – and making a difference doesn’t have to cost you a cent. Do It Day is about using resources that are readily available, namely ourselves, to uplift our communities. It’s a powerful, symbolic tool for change, with the potential to transform mindsets about giving. In the words of Nkosi Johnson (1989 – 2001): “Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are in.”
Sign up now
Sign up now at doitday.co.za and pick a project for you and your friends or colleagues to take part in. You can also sign up by SMSing the word DO to 33009. Each SMS costs R1.50.
If you can’t make the actual day, you can still be part of the Do It Day phenomenon – we have some ready-made alternatives for you. Just visit the website or contact us to find out.
This article was first published in the July edition of GreaterGood South Africa. It is republished here with permission.
- The National Executive Committee of the ANC will start a three-day meeting on Friday to discuss, among other things, recent service delivery protests, a spokesperson said.
"This meeting takes place in the background of some sporadic service delivery protests that have taken place in some parts of the country," said ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu.
"The NWC [National Working Committee] has already expressed concern at the violent tactics employed by the protesters. Those would certainly be expected to be among the issues [to be discussed at the meeting]."
ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte told SABC that recent service delivery protests in Mpumalanga, North West, Western Cape and Gauteng provinces would come under discussion.
"We will look at the service related protests and the ANC structures on the ground's involvement in the management of those situations," said Duarte.
To read the article titled, “ANC to discuss protests,” click here.Source:<br /> News24
- Disgruntled members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) marched to the Ekurhuleni mayoral offices to hand over a memorandum demanding better health services yesterday.
TAC spokesman, Nokwezi Hoboyi said there were various clinics within Ekurhuleni struggling with shortages of the anti-retrovirals.
“In the past few months, the ARV roll-out has lost momentum, many thousands of people remain on waiting lists and most patients have CD4 counts in the region of 100 by the time they are finally initiated onto ARVs.”
She added that there was no communication from councillors and that health committees were inactive.
To read the article titled, “TAC demands better services,” click here.
Source:<br /> Citizen
High staff turnover due to a lack of adequate subsidisation by Government, plagues many South African NGOs, that struggle to provide the necessary services to communities in need.
In the Eastern Cape subsidies used to pay social workers have not been increased in two years, while social auxiliary workers are subsidised on the Department of Social Development’s 2002 scales.
Government pays its social workers on average around 37% higher salaries. In 2008, the Department of Social Development paid its social auxiliary workers a starting salary of R64 410 per annum while NGOs received subsidies of R35 749. Principle social workers were paid R174 243 per annum, while the subsidies amounted to R112 625.67. Last year social workers received a small increase from R75 947.28 to R79 500 per annum, but even this can not compare to the Department’s salaries of R117 501.
This, says Christian Social Council (CMR) Eastern Cape director, Corné Erasmus, results in a high staff turnover. “There is a shortage of social workers in South Africa. The government is paying good salaries to its social work staff members. Social workers are leaving the NGO sector to work for the Government”, she says.
Erasmus says the high turnover has a very negative impact on an NGO’s service delivery as communities do not benefit when there is no continuity.
She says some NGOs are unable to fill their vacancies for months. When they do manage to fill a position, it is usually a beginner who requires training before they are equipped to do the job properly. “It is a continuous training process, once they are trained, it usually takes about six months before they leave to work for the Government.”
Appeal for equality
Since the services delivered by the NGO sector are done on behalf of the Department of Social Development, NGOs have appealed to the relevant provincial bodies for sufficient financial compensation. They feel it should be a 100% subsidy for the salaries of social workers based on the department’s current salary scales.
“The NGO and Government social workers are actually doing more or less the same work, but they are not getting equal pay”, says Erasmus. She says the NGOs try and match the salaries offered by Government as much as possible, but the money has to come from other sources which impacts the operations of the organisations.
Further to this, NGOs in different provinces receive different subsidies. Erasmus says the sector is also fighting to equalise the subsidies in all provinces.
Iveda Smith, the registrar and CEO of the South African Council for Social Service Profession says it is a reality that social workers migrate from NGOs to government for better salaries and working conditions, but she adds: “But it is not always the only reason, sometimes it is also about personal development and career pathing.”
Smith says the Council is not in a position to comment on the subsidies as it is not involved and has no knowledge of the content of service level agreements between the NGO sector and Government.
The Policy on Financial Awards for Service Providers (PFASP) which the Government introduced to regulate the relationship between itself and NGOs, has worsened the problem. The policy expects a high standard of service delivery from NGOs but provides less funding to do so.
The PFASP accuses NGOs of poor work and not distributing their services equally, but it is impossible for NGOs to do so without sufficient funding. The policy fails to address the problem of insufficient funding.
In order to raise additional funding, the policy suggests that NGOs charge fees for their services, which is impossible since the services are provided to poor and marginalised people who have no ability to pay fees.
The National Welfare Forum wants the PFASP to acknowledge that there is insufficient funding for NGOs and demands equal pay for equal work.
This article was prepared by Chana Viljoen for the National Welfare Forum and was first published on their website www.forum.org.za on 30 June 2009. It is republished here with their permission.