• Mokonyane Urges Rand Water to Communicate Better

    Water and sanitation minister, Nomvula Mokonyane's office urges Rand Water to work closer and to communicate better with communities regarding water supply interruptions and other challenges.

    Speaking at a meeting with the board, Mokonyane reminds the board that “[as a member]… you have a responsibility towards the communities you serve."

    The board had to close the gap between their commitment to communities and what was eventually delivered, it also had to look at their current way of doing things, and how it could possibly be changed for positive results.

    To read the article titled, “Mokonyane: Rand Water must communicate better,” click here.

    News 24
  • Ten Things to Prevent Constitutional Drift Within NPOs

    1. Defining the constitution 
    South African nonprofit organisations (NPOs) can essentially be established through one of three structures, being; voluntary associations, nonprofit trusts and nonprofit companies. Each of these NPOs have different founding documents, namely: constitution for the voluntary association, trust deed for the nonprofit trust and memorandum of incorporation for the nonprofit company. The definition of ‘constitution’ in the Nonprofit Organisations Act includes a trust deed and memorandum of incorporation.   
    1. Binding nature of constitution   
    The constitution of a voluntary association, according to the courts, is founded on a contractual basis. It has the same binding power as, for example, a lease agreement. The constitution of a voluntary association, together with all its rules or regulations, is a legal contract entered into between its members. This legal contract: 
    • Determines the nature and scope of the NPO's activities, and
    • Regulates the rights of members. 
    Non-compliance with the constitution is breach of contract. Board members may be held liable in their personal capacity if they act beyond the scope and powers laid down in the constitution. 
    1. Governing in-line with constitution    
    The constitution should reflect how the NPO is governed. NPOs are basically governed with or without membership. Membership-based NPOs have a board together with general members. The general members normally issue resolutions that must be implemented by the board and will also appoint and remove board members. Some NPOs only have a board with no general members.
    Whatever the structure, the board takes full responsibility for the governance of the NPO and will themselves often appoint further board members but this can lead to the formation of cliques if it is not constitutionally applied. It is wise to ensure that solid reasons are clearly stated in the constitution for revoking membership or removal of office bearers. A right to appeal process should be available and respected.
    The governance structure of a NPO is a critical aspect and should be accurately dealt with in the constitution. 
    1. Using the Constitution   
    The constitution stipulates the meeting procedures and should be available at meetings of the board and members. The meeting procedures must be in-line with the requirements listed in the constitution. If not, such decisions can be void. During 2009 the Supreme Court of Appeal found that a voluntary association expelled a member unlawfully because the internal committee that expelled the member was not authorised or empowered to do so.
    For instance, the procedure and format for hosting an Annual General Meeting should be clearly outlined in the constitution and this must be applied each year. 
    1. Reviewing the Constitution   
    The NPO should review its constitution on a regular basis. This will help to ensure that:
    • It is consistent with relevant developments;
    • It mirrors the accuracy of why the NPO exists, its purpose, aims and objectives. This can change over time and come under scrutiny as new people join and want to broaden the scope.  Such situations occur after strategic planning sessions when new directions are agreed upon but may not align with the constitution;
    • The name of the NPO may have to change to reflect current activities. Names and acronyms can become offensive or misleading to other people, be sensitive;
    • Outdated legal requirements do not remain in the constitution. For example, some constitutions still have outdated tax conditions that are no longer required in terms of the Income Tax Act. These conditions can limit the activities of the NPO;
    • Organisational practices line up with the constitution. 
    1. Leading and sustaining the NPO   
    Election of office bearers can become slack over a period of time – friends co-opt each other, and the NPO may become cliquey. Follow the formal process; do not spin a bottle and say ‘you are it’! Terms of office should create stability for say three to four years.
    The composition of a board will depend on the nature of the NPO but as a minimum requirement there should be a Chairperson, Treasurer and Secretary, often referred to as the executive and most likely responsible persons for fiduciary duties. Keep in mind that any person who is in a fiduciary capacity responsible for the management or control of the income and assets of any approved public benefit organisation and who intentionally fails to comply with any provision of section 30 of the Income Tax Act or its Constitution, to the extent that it relates to that section, shall be guilty of an offence. 
    1. Simplifying the constitution 
    In some instances, a constitution runs into 50 pages or more, which is cumbersome.  Simplify things by writing statements and then refer to other documents. The same can apply to rules of procedures such as standing rules or bylaws. Also refer to Professional Codes of Ethics or Risk management procedures in the unlikelihood of financial distress or insolvency. 
    1. Meetings, quorums, decision-taking 
    The minimum number of people to attend a meeting, a quorum, should be set at a reasonable level and based on the largest number of members or board representatives that can be depended upon to attend the average meeting. Decision-taking will be delayed if an unrealistic quorum is required. If your NPO is experiencing similar challenges amend the constitution in the interest of advancement.   
    1. Growing with the constitution 
    A constitution is a central part of operations - it will outline mandates, membership rights, transparency, accountability and democratic principles. NPOs are dynamic and enter many phases from the birth of a great idea by the founders, onto youth-hood, through to adult-hood, then reaching maturity (sustainability) or possibly decline.  The different phases of growth may require reflection of the founding documents. 
    1. Spicing it up  
    Although the constitution is a legal document, there is no rule preventing the constitution from looking interesting and reflecting the character of the NPOs. Just insert a note that the cover page can be changed without having to change the constitution. Design a nice cover page for the constitution – make it psychedelic!
    - Ann Bown is a fundraising and sustainability consultant to nonprofit organisations,  Tel: 011 795 3271 or 083 271 0572, website:; Ricardo Wyngaard, Ricardo Wyngaard Attorneys, Tel: 021 975 8808, website:
    Ann Bown
  • Lesotho’s Early Vote to End Political Crisis

    A South African official states that, Lesotho's leaders are planning to head to the polls early in a bid to restore political order following an attempted coup and stalled peace talks between deadlocked political parties.

    South Africa's minister of international relations and cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, has announced that as a result of the coalition government not being ‘fully functional’ Lesotho's leaders are planning to ‘shorten the mandate, of the coalition’.

    Nkoana-Mashabane recommends the country to now focus on ‘free, fair and incident free democratic elections for a fresh mandate’ in the upcoming elections to be held in 2017.

    To read the article titled, “Lesotho to hold early vote to end political crisis,” click here.

    News 24
  • Inhumane Zim Holding Cells Slammed

    Zimbabwean lawyers condemn reported assaults, deaths of suspects in police custody, as well as conditions in holding cells they dub unfit for human habitation.

    During a parliamentary committee on human rights, president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Lloyd Mhishi, expresses that, “There have been disturbing reports of deaths in police custody and some of our members have reported that some of their clients have been assaulted or coerced to make confessions.”

    Meanwhile, human rights organisations have denounced prison conditions in Zimbabwe, saying suspects are often held in overcrowded cells without functioning bathroom facilities, and issued threadbare and often lice-infested blankets.

    To read the article titled, “Lawyers blast inhumane Zim holding cells,” click here.

    IOL News
  • Google Snubs Govt Over Data Requests

    Google, the world’s largest search engine, has denied several requests from the South African government to obtain user data as well as requests to remove content.

    In its transparency report, the company says that during January to June this year, it received seven requests from South Africa for user data, which it disregarded since no information was given.

    It explains that, “We review each request to make sure that it complies with both the spirit and the letter of the law, and we may refuse to produce information or try to narrow the request in some cases.”

    To read the article titled, “Google snubs SA govt data requests,” click here.

    The Citizen
  • Breaking the Myth of ‘Demobilised’ Communities

    "Community leaders are seen as the opposition - we are labelled, attacked and criminalised", says General Moyo, a Makause resident facing various charges including intimidation following a community protest against police brutality.

    Moyo was speaking at a workshop on the findings of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) research into four informal settlements, the Community Practice Notes: Informal Settlements Series. The series, which is the latest research output of SERI aims to document the socio-economic struggles of community-based organisations in different settlement contexts in South Africa. The first part covers informal settlement struggles for development in Makause, Rooigrond, Thembelihle and Slovo Park.

    Caption: Community representatives from Makause, Rooigrond, Thembelihle and Slovo Park being taken through timelines of their respective community struggles. Photo: Koketso Moeti

    Like Makause, representatives from the other communities face severe repression. A common theme from participants is how their respective community struggles led to the intimidation, bullying and worse of community leaders. Bhayiza Moyo, a Thembelihle resident even went as far as suggesting that there are instances when it even seems that, “Government deliberately divides communities.”

    Another common issue in all the communities is their experience of a lack of meaningful engagement from the government. According to Orapeleng Khula, a Rooigrond resident, "Government must learn to listen to us [communities]." All the communities present turned to government as their first point of call in their struggles, only resorting to other strategies when engagement did not happen. "After this communities then turn to protest,” said Bhyiza Miya, “adding that protests usually take place when people are frustrated."

    Workshop participants stories of struggles similar to their own, in different contexts allowing those who live the struggles an opportunity to engage with each other.

    Caption: Community Practice Notes: Informal settlement series. Photo: Koketso Moeti

    According to SERI senior researcher and advocacy officer, Kate Tissington, the organisation wanted to document the struggles they witness in the communities they work with for quite a while. The information is collected from settlement or building committees and through research, which involves interviews with residents among other methods. “We want to document local struggles in informal settlements so as to inform a more nuanced debate on participation in informal settlement upgrading,” says Tissington, who adds that the series also shows the nexus between evictions, development, community organisation and mobilisation, local politics, protest and the use of courts.

    Community struggles often come into the public domain in an extremely superficial way, as five line articles or traffic warnings when communities protest. What this series shows is that protests occur as part of much longer struggles around development, which includes communities engaging government at all levels and even taking their struggles to organisations such as SERI for support. A point affirmed by a Thembelihle participant who says that, "Government does not engage with communities, even NGOs [non-governmental organisations] engage us more than our own government."

    While reference is often made to an ‘unresponsive state’, Tissington argues that the series shows that the problem is often that, “The state is disorganised and uncoordinated in its response to issues, which is further worsened by political interference.”

    More than anything else however, SERI’s latest publications disprove the idea of ‘demobilised’ and ‘dependent’ communities. Although the series only looks at four informal settlements, these communities are reflective of the struggles happening in many other settlements across the country- even if in different contexts.

    - Koketso Moeti is the national coordinator of Local Government Action, working to promote democracy, accountability and delivery at local government level.
    Koketso Moeti
  • NGOs Key in Conservation - Kasukuwere

    The Zimbabwean government has commended community-based and non-governmental organisations for becoming key partners in protecting and conserving the environment.

    Environment, Water and Climate Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, says this enhanced the Zim-Asset objectives in addressing environmental challenges through community participation.

    Speaking at the United Nations Development Programme - Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (UNDP-GEFSGP) Exhibition and Knowledge Fair Event in Harare, Kasukuwere pointed out that these organisations have become key partners in maintaining the fine balance between human needs and environmental sustainability.

    To read the article titled, “Community-based NGOs key in conservation,” click here.

    All Africa
  • Call for NGOs to be Audited

    Nsanje District Commissioner, Harry Phiri, says that the Kalondolondo Social audit programme should start assessing projects implemented by the country's non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

    Phiri says that most of the NGOs in Malawi receive more funds from donors, adding that the funds are not properly handled and therefore need to be assessed.

    His opinion comes at a time when the district is to have its 25 Local Development Fund (LDF) teacher houses project audited by the Kalondolondo programme.

    To read the article titled, “CSOS' projects should be audited - Nsanje DC,” click here.

    All Africa
  • SA NGO Wins Top UNESCO Award

    A South African non-governmental organisation, Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy, has received the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Confucius Prize for Literacy.

    The Confucius Prize for Literacy award was presented on International Literacy Day - 8 September 2014 - and its candidacy was supported by the Ministry of Basic Education and the South African National Commission for UNESCO.

    Molteno chief executive, Masennya Dikotla, points out that the recommendation by the Department of Basic Education shows the trust they have in the work that Molteno does, adding that, “We dedicate this prize to the children of our beloved country and will use the prize money to ensure a better future for them.”

    To read the article titled, “SA NGO receives top UNESCO award,” click here.

    IOL News
  • Small-Scale Farmers Risk Losing Farms

    Scores of small scale farmers in Jozini, northern KwaZulu-Natal, are at risk of losing their farms.

    According to the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Ayanda Mhlongo, more than 20 farmers have already lost their farms due to alleged corruption and mismanagement by Mjindi - a government appointed management entity.

    Mhlongo says the farmers claim to have lease agreements on the land, adding that other farmers also allege government promised them farming implements, withheld by Mjindi, resulting in dying crops.

    To read the article titled, “Small scale farmers risk losing farms in KZN,” click here.

    SABC News
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