The South African Institute for Advancement has released a report into government’s proposed new policy framework for South African civil society. The Institute commissioned the research when it became evident that government was exploring the implementation of a new NPO Act. The current Non-Profit Organisations Act, No 71 of 1997 replaced the former Fundraising Act which the apartheid regime set up to prevent funding reaching organisations advocating for democracy.
Inyathelo Executive Director, Shelagh Gastrow, says the latest moves by government to amend the NPO Act could threaten civil society’s hard won independence. “While elements of the new proposals are to be supported, such as the simplification of the registration process for NPOs, we have grave concerns relating to the implementation of mandatory governance rules or codes by Government. Civil society’s independence is underpinned by its right to freedom of association and therefore self-regulation. We also reject government’s proposal to give the proposed South African Non-profit Organisations Regulatory Authority (SANPORA) investigative and enforcement powers that include the ability to enforce punitive measures. And lastly, we cannot agree with the proposal that decisions by the proposed South African Nonprofit Organisations Tribunal (SANPOTRI) be binding to all parties concerned. NPOs should be allowed to appeal decisions made by SANPOTRI through the courts,” insists Gastrow.
The research involved twelve interviews with government officials, legal experts and civil society representatives, including two NPO lawyers, five NPO Directors and three officials from the Department of Social Development, including the Chief Director of the NPO Directorate. Inyathelo