Governance and democracy

Governance and democracy

  • Single Electoral System by 2014

    The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has announced that South Africa will have a single election for all spheres of government by 2014.

    Minister Sicelo Shiceka, who made the announcement at the South African Local Government Association’s (SALGA) member assembly in Kimberley, argues that the country is constantly busy with elections and there is no time to deliver services.

    Shiceka says the term for municipal councillors will be three years after the 2011 municipal elections and that all mayors and municipal managers will meet President Jacob Zuma, within the next two months to sign performance agreement contracts. He added that it is unacceptable that people still do not have access to basic services.

    To read the article titled, “SA's electoral system to change by 2014,” click here.
    SABC News
  • Call for sustained pressure on Egypt amid clampdown on civil society

    Press Release

    11 May 2010

    In the lead up to the 2010 Parliamentary elections and the 2011 Presidential elections, the government of Egypt has stepped up efforts to clamp down on dissent from political activists and civil society organisations. In the past few months, against a backdrop of continued demonstrations on a wide range of social problems including high food prices and low minimum wages, the government has singled out political protests in particular for violent suppression.

    These political protests include a Cairo protest on 6 April and 3 May that were put down by police in riot gear wielding batons. The protesters were detained and beaten under the serious threat of even more violent repression. One lawmaker of the ruling National Democratic Party, Nashaat al-Qasas, commented to Egypt’s Parliament on 18 April: “I would have questioned the Interior Ministry for being soft on these outlaws ... Do not use water hoses to disperse these outlaws, shoot at them directly.”

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, through its Early Warning System, has noted continued repressive conditions for local civil society activists and organisations. In March 2010, a copy of a draft law to suppress independent civil society was leaked to the local press and immediately garnered widespread denunciation from local civil society, as well as international criticism from both human rights groups and governments.

    Among the worst restrictions in the proposed law are provisions that would grant the Minister of Social Solidarity unchecked authority to deny registration or de-register and liquidate any civil society organisation. This Ministerial prerogative -- along with provisions that explicitly limit civil society activities to “social care, development, and community awareness-raising” and require Minister of Social Solidarity permission for all civil society partnerships with any international entity -- would effectively repress the little remaining space for any freedom of expression, association and assembly in Egypt.

    “Without an open space for civil society there is no hope that the elections scheduled for the next two years will be fair and transparent,” said Netsanet Belay, manager of CIVICUS’ Civil Society Watch programme. “There is a critical need in Egypt for legislative amendments to enable truly democratic processes, including reform of election laws that grant the Interior Minister broad, practically unrestricted, powers to supervise voter registration, open the door for nominations and declare the election results.”
    CIVICUS and the Every Human Has Rights (EHHR) campaign call upon their members and supporters to apply sustained pressure on both the Egyptian government and key international actors by stating their unequivocal censure of the leaked draft Law on Associations and Foundations and their solidarity with Egyptian civil society in demanding open, transparent, and democratic multi-party elections. Visit to find out how you can take action now.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world. CIVICUS is also taking the lead on the EHHR campaign.

    For more information please contact CIVICUS: 

    Jessica Hume (, Communications Officer or
    Adam Nord ( ), Civil Society Watch Programme Officer,
    Office Tel: +27 11 833 5959
    Date published: 
    Issued by: 
  • Land Reform: Share Scheme for Black Farmers

    The government is looking into a shares scheme for black farmers with the aim of reaching land reform targets and replacing the willing buyer/willing seller principle.

    In terms of this scheme, commercial farmers will have to hand over up to about 40 percent of their farm's value to black shareholders.

    Minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, says that this new plan may be included in a revised black empowerment charter for the agricultural sector.

    To read the article titled, “Land reform share scheme mooted,” click here.
  • National Planning Commission Announced

    President Jacob Zuma has unveiled a new National Planning Commission (NPC), tasked with charting a long-term and cohesive development strategy for the economy.

    The NPC, whose 25 members are drawn from as broad a spectrum as possible of industry and society, will be chaired by National Planning Minister, Trevor Manuel.

    Zuma points out that, "While each of these areas of work relate to an aspect of government's work, the commission is asked to take an independent, cross-cutting, critical and long-term view."

    Meanwhile, the NPC, which will have its own full-time secretariat, is expected to produce a ‘national vision’ document for cabinet consumption in 18 months.

    To read the article titled, “Zuma unveils planning body,” click here.
    Sunday Times
  • Africa Development Indicators 2010: Quiet Corruption

    This essay in the Africa Development Indicators series aims to shed light on a different type of corruption. It introduces the term ‘quiet corruption’ to indicate various types of malpractice of frontline providers that do not involve monetary exchange. This paper details how such practices are undermining Africa’s development by illuminating devastating malpractice; denied an education because of absentee teachers, children suffer in adulthood with low cognitive skills and weak health and the absence of drugs and doctors means unwanted deaths from malaria and other diseases, etc.

    For more information, click here.
  • SA Urged to Tackle Poverty and Unemployment

    Independent political analyst, Somadoda Fikeni, says poverty and the high rate of unemployment in the country still poses a huge challenge to South African citizens, 16-years into the country's democracy.

    Fikeni points out that while some work has been achieved, unemployment, HIV and education are still the biggest problems the government must work hard to improve.

    Meanwhile, the South African Student Congress (SASCO) president, Mbulelo Mandlana, says the democracy attained in 1994 allowed ‘entrepreneurs’ to accumulate while failing to deliver even the goods and services they are contracted to deliver. Mandlana argues that this trend resulted in the collapse RDP houses, roads and bridges.

    To read the article titled, “Poverty, unemployment mars SA’s democracy: analyst,” click here.
    SABC News
  • ‘Tis the Season of Promises

    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.

    Shelagh Gastrow
  • NGO Urges Political Parties to Nominate Women

    Ghanaian NGO, the Foundation for Grass Roots Initiatives in Africa (GrassRootsAfrica), has urged the political parties to nominate women as running mates for the 2012 general election.

    GrassRootsAfrica policy and advocacy officer, Viola Naawiete Desoberi, argues that political parties should create room for women to become running mates, in order to help bridge the gender disparity in governance and decision making and to facilitate balance development

    Desoberi, who is of the view that no nation could develop properly without giving equal opportunities to women in the various sectors of the economy, says statistics revealed that since the advent of the First Republic and the fourth Parliament, women representation had always been fewer than 10 percent of the total number of parliamentarians.

    To read the article titled, “Political parties should nominate women as running mates- NGO,” click here.
    Ghana News Agency
  • Strengthening Dialogue

    'Strengthening Dialogue' suggests a core set of principles and practices, and some specific initiatives that could be undertaken in order to enhance this engagement. It highlights some of the potential benefits of closer engagement, examines the obstacles that need to be addressed, and notes the distinct challenges of cooperation at the country level.

    The study focuses on two specific cases: small farmer organisations and indigenous peoples. It looks at concrete examples of interaction at both the global and country levels that can provide valuable lessons for strengthening future engagement.
    Strengthening Dialogue aims to heighten awareness and increase debate, both within UN circles and, between the UN system and people’s movements, about the principles and practices of meaningful engagement. It suggests next steps and encourages action on its recommendations.

    For more information, click here
  • Zambian Police Says No to NGO Rally

    The NGOs that have planned to hold a public rally in Lusaka have backpedalled, claiming the police have not granted them a notice to go ahead.

    According to Citizens Forum executive secretary, Simon Kabanda, the NGOs have, however, threatened to go ahead with the red card campaigns and will remain committed to demanding for good governance and a good Constitution.

    In the same vein, the African Institute for Democracy and Good Governance has welcomed the cancellation of the planned rally in support of the red card campaign, saying dialogue should always prevail over unnecessary protests. Spokesperson Thabo Kawana says the police acted wisely in not giving a notice to the NGOs to hold the rally, adding that it was clear that the campaign lacked credibility, and that Zambians would not have supported it.

    To read the article titled, “NGOs rally called off,” click here.

    All Africa
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