Country’s NGOs in Crisis. Let’s not Make it Worse.

There is a horrible tendency in the NPO sector to shoot ourselves in the foot. This appears to be because we take entirely to heart the injunction not to criticise our neighbour without examining ourselves for faults. Hence, it seems, the regular if sporadic, “Mea culpa!” from the sector on corruption. Are we in fact guilty?

If you read the article published recently on NGO Pulse, (issued by MACS Media on behalf of the Orion Organisation and the Cape Town Society for the Blind) you will see that in the article, Lizelle van Wyk, chief executive of the Cape Town Society for the Blind is quoted making a number of sweeping statements about South Africa’s NGO sector. Van Wyk asserts that the current crisis in funding for the Non Profit sector is exacerbated by an increase in corruption as well as cover-ups on what Non Profit Organisations’ funding is actually being spent on. In certain cases, this has damaged or permanently ruined the trust between certain NGOs and their donors.

This is something you can get any NPO leader to say on any platform: we are all guilty. None of us is without sin.

Unfortunately, this is not understood as a metaphysical statement by government. What they hear is that literally, we all stole money. Now, that is simply not true. It is however certainly part of government’s rationale for strengthening its regulation of NPOs. In the latest iteration of the new NPO policy framework, proposals are made to improve oversight over the NPO sector.  This is because we have unfortunately agreed with government on a regular basis that indeed, we are not without sin.

But what evidence exists of organisations flouting governance rules?

In a recent report by Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement, research on the proposed changes to the legislative framework for NPOs revealed the following: “Direct evidence [of corruption] is hard to come by. Respondents reported hearing of cases of fraud but these were mostly hearsay. A senior provincial Department of Social Development manager reports: ‘We had about 30 cases [of fraud] in the past two years and have been very rigorous in monitoring NPOs. A few of these cases we have handed over to SAPS (South African Police Service), laying criminal charges against board members. The main charges were board members using DSD funding for personal enrichment.’

“However, [he says] that, ‘I must also add that the cases have dropped in numbers [since last year] and the NPOs are very aware of the fact that we have a no-nonsense approach. NPOs must report to us quarterly and if they don’t, we suspend funding.’ The problematic cases amounted to 1.3 percent of grants made in that province and, according to him, they are resolved as they have been detected and funding has been suspended.”

So what in fact are we talking about? Where is the evidence of NPO corruption? And if there is no evidence but merely the odd bit of breast beating, that must stop.

In the same report, “Ministerial advisor Zane Dangor admits that, ‘we haven’t been implementing the Act…well. If we do, we will have a good regulatory environment. The Inyathelo Code [the Independent Code of Governance for Non-Profit Organisations in South Africa] is a good example of self-regulation. If you implement it, you don’t need to do more. The moment you do more, you are going into overregulation.’” (Interview)

This moment in time for the NPO sector is a particularly vulnerable one. Many have suffered as a result of the current funding crisis deriving from the decrease in international funds, the effects of the global recession, unpredictable funding from the National Lotteries Board, limited increases in Corporate Social Investment from local business and a certain amount of incompetence and uncertainty with regard to government funding (in some provinces more than in others). With organisations in the sector closing down and cutting down on services to the poor comes a concomitant limiting of their advocacy and lobbying actions and their ability to bring about change. Perhaps most important of all, their ability to hold government to account is also compromised.

Many NPOs are looking to business models to improve their sustainability and generate independent income streams. One of the places to look for this kind of income is the South African consumer who can be offered the choice to spend his or her money on a good cause. A reputable cause. A credible cause. Undermining their confidence in how their money is going to be used is fatal.

If we keep telling the state that we are not able to govern ourselves, the state, make no mistake, will do it for us. This will further undermine public confidence in the NPO sector. Injudicious mea culpas are not helpful – they do not help our cause or those we serve. Show us the evidence.

And where there is evidence, we will #paybackthemoney.

Alison Tilley is Head of Advocacy for the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) and Kathleen Dey is Director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

Let us build a counter culture

Why is there such a high incidence of rape in South Africa? I understand what the problem is, it appears so obvious to me, but for some reason it’s not really being talked about in detail by many women who are in the forefront of the fight against violence against women.

Most women who are working to stop violence against women understand that we live in a rape culture but let me spell out what this description means to me.

Why is it that women, girls, children and even babies are so easily victimised?  What is it about a man that makes him so dangerous to women? Not all men across all cultures are violent in this way; there are cultures where I believe there is no violence, no sexual abuse of women. Certainly there was no violence against women observed by those who recorded the Koi-San cultures in South Africa. Violence is not intrinsic to the development of masculinity, violence is learnt, just like racism that other form of violence, is learnt. Baby boys are not fundamentally violent.  Just like puppies and kittens, some are more pushy and boisterous, some are shy and retiring, some are sensitive and defensive but they are not born fundamentally exploitative, predatory and violent. This is something they learn and this is where rape culture comes in.

I will never forget what one survivor of gang rape told me when I was helping her at Rape Crisis. She said of the four boys who raped her, one whispered to her that he couldn’t rape her but she must please pretend that he was raping her or the other boys would bliksem him and mock him! It made me feel sick when I heard that.

We all know that we live in a culture that glorifies male deities. All the different religions do this. There is no religion that glorifies female power or spirituality. Powerful women are depicted as witches, the embodiment of evil.

Our culture glorifies war, and boys are given war toys and dressed in combat outfits. Video games train boys to shoot and kill enemies, not to have discussions with them and iron out their differences. Boys are encouraged to disrespect girls – if you really want to humiliate a boy tell him he is acting like a girl! Naturally lithe, graceful boys are called effeminate, which the dictionary defines as effete, lacking strength, sissified, having womanish qualities. Oh so flattering to women!

Boys are conditioned to feel entitled to service from women. They are led to believe that that’s what women are for; they believe that women have no other value other than as servants to men.  And then to cap it all now boys and men are bombarded by the porn industry, which attempts to entrap them early and keep them buying and consuming porn as long as they live. The message of the porn industry builds on the myth that women are there to service men and in this case sexually. This industry puts out the lie that women are sexually insatiable and that nothing makes them happier than to sexually please men in any way the man demands, that is supposed to be their whole reason for living!

Popular rappers call women nothing but whores, the icon Madonna has herself photographed enjoying being raped in a back alley. Popular female singers enact pornographic sex on the stage. Romantic novels and movies give out the message that women swoon for the love of rough, tough men.  Male dominated fashion houses dictate that women wear clothes that look as if they are half ripped off them, that their lips should be swollen with lust, that their hair should be mostly blond, (and blonds are supposed to be stupid) that their bodies should be shaved of hair so they look prepubescent, that they should be thin so that they look infantile, that they should wear high heels so that they look off balance and vulnerable and on and on it goes.

The answer to the question why do men rape? is obvious to me, they are conditioned to rape it’s not a naturally male thing to do.

We have to work to change rape culture.

We need to build a counter culture. We can’t continue to glorify war. We need to teach boys practical conflict resolution skills. We need to teach boys to respect girls. We need to emphasise, enhance and publicly admire the positive qualities of girls.  We need to replace images of women as merely decorative, passive and pleasing with images and depictions of women and girls full of character, originality, wit and energy.  We need to showcase the strength and skills of female athletes, scientists, international airline pilots, astronauts, engineers and doctors.

The current ideal images of men and boys as hard bodied, clamp jawed, warriors, need to be replaced with images and depictions of men known for their intelligence, originality, humour, creativity and gentleness. The heterosexual imperative should be recognised as oppressive and limiting of human development. It should be replaced with an acceptance of multifaceted types of human relationships as long as they free of coercion and exploitation.

Let us work to create an intelligent, loving, caring global culture where humanity, animals and the planet’s abundant, diverse natural environments thrive. Wouldn’t that be lovely!

Think of ways we could build an alternative to rape culture. Write in and let us know.

Anne Mayne

Pic Anne

Anne Mayne, co-founder of Rape Crisis, with her partner Leah Abramsohn who is also an activist against violence against women and their dog Shayne



Sex Sells

Trying to wrap my head around economics and finance has always been incredibly difficult for me. I have, like everyone else, heard the cliché that “sex sells”. I can rarely find a movie that doesn’t have at least SL if not the usual SVL enticer. Adverts are often the equivalent of a nudge and a wink or a kiss and a promise. So it seems that there is an enormous amount of money to be made by having people think about sex and linking them to “sexy” products. Or isn’t it perhaps having them think about sex and personal power in a particular way….Why are people willing to spend money to feel less disempowered by not being sexy enough, but not willing to pay money to not have to feel this way at all?


Even when we move into the ostensibly socially aware, consciousness raising cultural masterpieces (seeing plays, watching documentaries that raise awareness about real and deeply troubling issues… the position of women, rape, homophobia and the killing of our lesbians and gay men) – people seem very willing to spend their money. What happens there? A sense of outrage? A feeling of solidarity with the oppressed? A feeling of being on the right side of the issue? Of being ethical? A feeling of outrage or even of being oddly titillated?

All except the last, of course, have their place and are needed. But what does one do with awareness? What is the next step? Despair? Denial? Or a dinner out to ease the discomfort?

I understand that rape and gender-based violence is not sexy at all, but the public seems to be quite happy and entertained at seeing it in fictional form. They will pay to watch a scene where someone is raped; or a gay man is beaten, a lesbian killed, and feel all the uncomfortable feelings that go with that. So why not pay to help prevent rape or protect people who have been raped? Why aren’t organisations working in the sexual violence field or even with the LGBTI field rolling in money?

Writing and thinking about “the public” seems almost as strange to me as economics. Within that amorphic term are millions or even billions of people, who like the rest of us, think, feel, want safety, love, peace and some delight. I don’t really believe in “the public”. I am not sure that it is a useful belief at all. I think that people do care, often very much, about the individual difficulties that people face. I think very few feel pleased, smug, or indifferent when they hear that another lesbian has been raped and killed: that a gay man has been beaten to death: that a straight woman or child has been raped and killed by a husband or boyfriend. I think what happens is a feeling of horror, helplessness, and then the numbness because there is too much and where does one start?

My suggestion is to start wherever you can. Speak out about the awfulness of it, make it clear in the shops you visit, your schools, your newspapers, your governments that this is something worth paying for, is something worth caring about. There is probably also some lovely economic spin off – people who are able to work without crippling PTSD, people being creative and productive instead of being simply afraid. But as I’ve said, I can’t really get my head around economics. Perhaps you can?

Morgan Mitchell

Morgan Mitchell lives in Cape Town where she works with survivors of trauma in private practice as a trauma and EMDR counsellor. She has been a volunteer at Rape Crisis since 2001 and is a feminist civil rights activist.

Nirbhaya and “one small incident of rape”

Did you ever wonder how much a rape is worth in the marketplace or at the governmental level? No? Neither have I, but apparently some do. Earlier this month, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised a storm of protest when he reflected, “One small incident of rape in Delhi advertised world over is enough to cost us millions of dollars in terms of lower tourism.” The “one small incident” was the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a young woman, now known as the Nirbhaya case. Nirbhaya means fearless.

When protests exploded all around him, the Finance Minister regretted his words, and of course the ways in which they had been “misconstrued”. As so often happens, the perpetrator becomes victim if he argues long enough, has a big and high enough pulpit, has loads of money and moneyed friends, and is a man. Check, check, check, and check.

As witness to his recantation, the formal, published version of the Finance Minister’s talk removed the word “small.”

While the diminishment of a terrible event of violence against a woman, and of violence against women, was horrible, and according to many of the responses and critiques much worse, the reduction of sexual violence to an economic equation is equally problematic and wrong. If the `one small incident of rape’ only cost, say, a thousand dollars, would it then be fine? Would it then not be a matter of concern for India’s Finance Minister? Is finance exclusively and only a matter of hard, cold cash, and curiously that of other nations?

There are calls – from the victim’s family, from women’s groups, and from the general citizenry – for the Finance Minister to resign. It’s not enough. Words of repentance and regret are fine, but they do not suffice. Arun Jaitley is part of State power. He has been for years, both in the opposition and now in Cabinet. Let him and his colleagues say less and do more. If he and his colleagues want to show any kind of remorse, show it in the national budget. Invest in those organisations in India that are sisters to organisations such as Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust in South Africa, organisations made up of women and men, made up of individuals and communities, hard at work at the coalface of sexual violence. Don’t talk about the millions of dollars lost to “one small incident of rape.” Invest the millions of dollars, rupees, rand in one major issue: stopping violence against women. Be fearless.

Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg writes at Women In and Beyond the Global and at Africa Is a Country, and is Director of the Women’s Studies Program at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.