Anyone writing about South Africa faces a difficult challenge — how to capture all the drama, the hopes and disappointments, the pain of the past and the promise of the future, the good and the bad, of this compelling, contradictory and fast-changing society. Very often we look only at the big picture, but behind the politicians, the economic constraints and the stark realities of poverty and social disruption stand another set of actors working out of the public eye, promoting development in communities across the country. This is the story which Zane Dangor and his colleagues at the Development Resources Centre have begun to tell in the CAF publication The Non -Profit Sector in South Africa. They are the first to concede that they are sailing into uncharted waters, for details of the workings of non-profit organizations in South Africa are largely unknown and the sector itself is not amenable to being catalogued and neatly coded. Indeed, its very diversity, flexibility and spontaneity are its core strengths.
Hence we must consider the book as a series of exploratory journeys, uncovering different aspects of the non-profit sector but not yet telling the full story. The authors provide some illuminating comments and important warnings. Good intentions are no longer sufficient — whether on the part of projects, donors, or government. South Africa’s socio-economic needs remain as great as ever and the value which an effective non-profit sector can provide as important as ever (perhaps even more so) — but the real test is whether NPOs are making a difference. As the report reveals, it is all easy to create new forms of dependency, which serve only to deepen the challenge of sustainable development.
This book provides a useful overview of the sector and it drops tantalizing hints of tales of innovation, regrowth and creativity. South Africa is full of examples of extraordinary efforts to foster development often in the harshest of circumstances. Many of these seem small when viewed against overall needs, but in this way, step by step and day by day, new opportunity is being created in the lives of those who need it most. And it is this contribution to a changing South Africa which now needs to be documented.
The Non-Profit Sector in South Africa
by Zane Dangor and the Development Resource Centre
CAF International £15
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Margie Keeton is Chief Executive of the Anglo American and De Beers Chairman’s Fund