After the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa underwent a dramatic renovation of its political, social and economic systems



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The Role of Non-governmental Organizations in South African Development

By


Kirstin Conti

Environmental Development in a Global Economy

Bruce Lusignan

December 3, 2004

Examining the role that foreign aid has played in developing post-colonial Africa as whole, whether monetary or otherwise, we realize that contributions have been relatively non-existent, especially in comparison to the Middle East. There has been very little motivation for Western countries to provide African countries with monetary aid although the incentive is there. There are four major incentives for putting aid into a country: a stable government with a system of economic accountability, an increasing health risk without aid, a high level of poverty and the potential for terrorism. Many African countries meet three of these four qualifications and countries particularly in East African meet all four. Yet Africa is not receiving aid, not financial anyway, however South Africa is receiving aid in the form of money, trade benefits, and assistance with state building. So why is South Africa the chosen one? Once plausible answer is that apartheid created and ethical and economic incentive for Western countries to develop South Africa.

Apartheid was as system of institutionalized racism against blacks that unlike the institutionalized racism of the West carried well into the later half of the 21st century. By the 1980’s it was internationally accepted that institutionalized racism was wrong, however those practices persisted in South Africa. This drew a large amount of negative publicity towards the state leading to a series of multilateral sanctions and denouncements. Soon everyone wanted to join in the cause to end apartheid. And once it was over every wanted to have a hand in the redevelopment of the country. So it seems that the presence of apartheid drew the attention necessary for development towards South Africa by giving Westerners a noble cause to fight for.

After the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa underwent a dramatic renovation of its political, social and economic systems. The transformation from an apartheid system to one of democracy was not and easy one and what made it all the more difficult were the multiple social and political problems and inequities that had been deeply imbedded within the inner-workings of the country. Apartheid began in 1948 after British and Dutch colonial rule. The white minority wanted a system in place that would keep them in power during the post-colonial era. The state was characterized by segregation, strictly enforced by the police and other authorities. Everyone in the country was place in one of three categories based on skin color, demeanor, and social standing. They were white, colored, or black. People of Asian, Indian or mixed decent were considered colored and the rest were white or black. Although whites composed less than 20% of the population, by the 1970’s they had control over 87% of the land’s resources. Consequently, not only was there a vast economic imbalance but also whites where able to control who had access to the land. Each person was issued identification based on their color and their movement and access within the country was restricted based on their classification. This system leads to the impoverishment of blacks in South Africa and a systematic denial of their human rights.

So in 1994, apartheid ended with the holding of the first democratic election where blacks were allowed to run for office. Although the leadership of Nelson Mandela proved to be strong and steady, almost all of the systems that were in place during apartheid disappeared, leaving South Africa with little structure. Despite the chaos that ensued from this rapid and dramatic change South Africa was able to hold its ground domestically and internationally. But why was it able to do this so gracefully when many of its continental counterparts fell to pieces under equally dire circumstances? Well, many different non-governmental organizations took a strong interest in South Africa and eradicating apartheid and therefore took a vested interest in assisting South Africa with development. This paper is going to examine and analyze the role that three non-governmental organizations played and continues to play in creating sustainable development for South Africa.

We do not have to look hard to see that South Africa’s path to democratic development began during apartheid. The United Nations and the European Union both took condemned apartheid, the UN through the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment on the Crime of Apartheid in 1976 and the EU’s trade sanctions beginning in 1985. United Nations Development Program (UNDP) was in support of the anti-apartheid struggle before 1994. They also had an interest in laying the foundations for a post-apartheid society. Consequently South Africa was accepted as a programme country after the 1994 democratic elections. Under the auspices of the UNDP's Executive Board a country office was established in Pretoria.

As apartheid progressed the global community became increasingly concerned with the state of affairs in South Africa. The European Commission Foreign Ministers took action in September 1985 by adopting a “twin-track policy of restrictive and positive measures in response to the intensified repression in South Africa. ”1 Restrictions consisted of an oil-sale ban to South Africa, the termination of military cooperation, “discouragement of cultural, scientific and sporting links”2 and investment prohibition. One of the most influential actions taken was the implementation of the European Special Programme for the Victims of Apartheid (ESP). Its goal was to financially and politically support non-racial institutions within South Africa. Educational and professional training, humanitarian and social aid, and legal assistance were all areas the program targeted. The Special Programme outlined specific criteria for receiving funding stating that all funded projects should actively promote the philosophy of non-racialism. Further more, EU’s funds could only be received through approved non-racial, non-governmental, and nonviolent organizations such as the South African Council of Churches, the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, the Kagiso Trust and various trade unions. Between 1986 and 1994, 450 million euro, were committed within the framework of the Special Programme, providing funding for over 700 projects. This makes the development effort undertaken by the EU in South Africa one of the EU's largest in any single country in the world.

The release of political prisoners, the unbanning of political opposition groups and the repeal of apartheid legislation in the early 1990s prompted the EU to lift sanctions and to transform the Special Programme into a more coherent, sector-based development programme. Key areas of support were defined: education and training; health and welfare; rural and agricultural development; community/urban development; good governance and democratization and job creation/support to the micro-enterprise sector. The global objective of the ESP became to "assist the transition to a peaceful, democratic and prosperous South Africa". The latter objective still guides the successor of the ESP, the European Programme for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD).

With the termination of apartheid also can an influx of aid for the United Nations. Because they did not have any means for sanction during apartheid their presence was only felt after 1994. However, like the EU they sponsored various missions and special projects to South Africa to contribute to the cause of reconstruction and development. The third and possibly most important were the creation of African based NGO’s such as the African Union and NEPAD. The importance of these organizations extends far beyond the borders of South Africa. They are run by African nations for the benefit and advancement of African nations and with the presence of an inherent set of understandings (cultural and historical) these may be the most equip to deal with the continents problems in spite of its youth.

On October 29,1993, the European Council identified relations with South Africa as one of the areas for Joint Action under the Common Foreign Security Policy. Transition towards a democratic and multi-racial South Africa would be supported through a coordinated programme of assistance in preparing for, and monitoring of, the elections of April 1994 and the creation of an appropriate cooperation framework to consolidate the economic and social foundations of this transition. The package of immediate measures for South Africa adopted by the Council on April 18 and 19, 1994 defined the cooperation framework.

In October 1994, South Africa formally accepted the European Union's invitation to work towards a comprehensive and long- term relationship. Commissioner Brittan and Vice-President Mbeki signed a simplified Cooperation Agreement in October 1994. The Agreement was approved by Council in December 1994 and contained a mutual undertaking to cooperate in all areas of respective competencies. It also provided the necessary framework for European Investment Bank operations in South Africa.

Although it seems the only motivations that Western countries had for developing the was the Kantian sense of duty they felt to rebuilt a country recovering from moral and economic atrocities. However, apartheid was not the only thing drawing attention to South Africa. At the same time the AIDS pandemic was running rampant in South Africa and quickly spreading throughout the world. At this time AIDS was a new virus on the world stage and there were very few options able for treatment. Also prevention was difficult, particularly in Africa where there was little knowledge of contraceptive and disease prevention methods. So not only was the disease being spread by sexual and medical means but also being passed from mother to child. Consequently AIDS rapidly turned into a disease affecting the entire world. With this aid began pouring into the continent, particularly South Africa, with one of the highest infection rates on the continent.

In South Africa, the government does not mandate that AIDS cases be reported, and there is standard system for collecting information on the number of South Africans with AIDS. South Africa has 5.3 million people infected with the HIV virus, more than any other country in the world. There have been 370,000 AIDS related deaths over the past year leaving 1.1 million orphans throughout the country. In 2003 the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) sampled of more than 9,000 South Africans and released information on HIV prevalence and HIV-related risk behaviors. “Nearly half of all men and over one-third of women over 15 years of age reported that they had changed their behavior as a result of HIV/AIDS, including being faithful to one partner, reducing the number of sexual partners, abstinence, and condom use.”3 Programs like the Global AIDS Program (GAP), who sponsored the study, are taking the daunting challenge of combating AIDS head on.

GAP had a 2003 budget of $6.9 million and seeks to prevent HIV/AIDS, prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, provide HIV/AIDS care and treatment, survey the population, and foster infrastructure development. However, GAP and organizations like it face many challenges. They must confront cultural traditions that hinder prevention and treatment. In Africa there are many stigmas about AIDS and HIV and it is difficult to spur open and education discussions about the disease. Often times sex is not something that is discussed and the use of birth control is not some thing that is condoned. There are also superstitious beliefs about how HIV is contracted and how the disease can be killed. There is another dimension as well. Poverty contributes to the spread of AIDS because it encourages prostitution and does not allow for proper health care.

Poverty is a major problem in South Africa and not just because of its contribution to the AIDS epidemic. It creates a slow growing economy and encourages crime. Over 40% of South Africa’s population in below the poverty line. One possible way to stimulate the economy and eradicate poverty would be receiving foreign investments. However, South Africa’s high crime and a fledgling economy disincentivized foreign investments creating a downward spiral. There is violence because there is poverty and there is poverty because there is violence. The rapid conversion to democracy and the aggressive effort to integrate into the world economy has not produced tangible results for the people. The per capita GDP is around $3,200 for a total population of 42.8 million people. Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu advised the South Africa more vigorously address the poverty issue. Archbishop Tutu says poverty is dehumanizing and demeaning for the millions of South Africans who endure it every day.4 He says that a small, elite portion of the population is continually reaping the benefits of black economic empowerment. "We cannot glibly on full stomachs speak about handouts to those who often go to bed hungry," he said.5 South Africa cannot fight poverty on its own, which is why both the UN and the EU have established multiple programs within the country to combat poverty.

Directly after the end of apartheid the UN launched several pilot initiatives in order to stabilize the country and take care of its most urgent needs. But in 1997 a comprehensive Country Cooperation Framework (CCF) was finalized and implemented. The first CCF (1997-2001) aimed at reducing poverty and inequality in South Africa through two major programs: creating sustainable livelihoods, and promoting sound governance. In 2002 the second version of the program was phased in. Its goals are now more fully developed aiming to help the South African government to transitions its policies and strategies into livable realities. The current CCF aims to help the South African government translate some of its policies and strategies into practice so that there is greater social and economic transformation, particularly in the poorest rural areas. Nearly 60 percent of black South Africans live in poverty, compared to three percent of whites.6 This thought to encourage social and economic transformation especially in the poorest areas. The program’s revised description is as follows:
“The current CCF programmes are centred around: policy analysis for human development, supporting poverty reduction through local governance; a holistic response to HIV/AIDS and poverty; and strengthening the link between environmental conservation and development. Partnerships have been established with central, provincial and local government in four priority provinces: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Northwest. Local governments and communities face major challenges in dealing with decentralisation and participatory governance, especially in rural areas where local government structures and systems are still evolving. UNDP assists and facilitates the translation of national poverty reduction policies and strategies into implementable programmes, especially targeting the poorest and most vulnerable.”7
The UNDP also sponsors another program, which has a strong focus on creating self-sustainability with South Africa. UNDP’s South Africa's Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Strategy (ISRDS) is the main framework for rural poverty reduction from 2001 to 2010. Under this program poverty reduction and social services are provided to the poor by the UNDP through technical assistance, policy advice and mentorship, budgeting and evaluation systems.

Capacity Building for Local Governance (CBLG) is a third initiative. It builds capacity in strategic planning, management through participation and community participation. It connects local governments and community groups focusing on building self-reliance and developing relationships between the different parts of the government. And clearly this is working. CBLG has successfully developed a national strategy for local governance capacity building and a model for development through team building.

European Union’s initiates are less focused on poverty reductions, although this is a component and more targeted toward economic integration specifically. South Africa has special status in the cooperation agreements with the European Union and the EU is South Africa’s primary trading and investing partner. But South Africa’s economy bears strong resemblance to a developed economy in several areas. Consequently, it cannot receive funds from the European Development Fund. However, the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement has been implemented. It, first and foremost establishes preferential trade status between the EU and South Africa. This includes a free trade area. The agreement is comprehensive, covering about 90% of the trade between the countries. It is also tailored to the South Africa market with provisions that reflect the importance of development.

The main provisions of the TDC involve trade liberalization, sector protection, economic integration and safe guards. Trade liberalization involves and “asymmetric timetable” where the EU will liberalize South African imports at a rate about 20% faster than South Africa will liberalize EU trades. 8 Another aspect of the agreement was the decision to leave out some vulnerable products that both South Africa and the European Union produce. For South Africa these include exports that are typically sent to other African nation for the economic protection of those nations.

Although the main goal of TDC is to integrate South Africa into the world’s economy the provisions also emphasize social and cultural aspects. Both parties are committed to an ongoing discussion about alleviating the social problems associated with the post-apartheid era as a part of the agreement. They are also in cooperation to protect the environment, foster cultural cooperation, fight against drugs and money laundering, and join hands in the fight against AIDS and move toward a goal of better national health.9 The European Programme for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD) is a sub-project of the TCD and currently gives 127.5 million euro per annum into development efforts in South Africa.

South Africa contains a vast amount of valuable natural resource and consequently huge development potential. There is also a well-developed political ideal established. However, there are major development constraints. There is a wide gap in economic distribution, imbalanced human resources development, a rapidly growing population of those infected with HIV/AIDS, immense poverty, high crime rate and an underdeveloped judiciary system, unemployment and slow economic growth. The combination of vast social inequities and a slowly developing economy have made violent crime endemic in South Africa, giving the country the highest crime rates in the world. In contrast the underdeveloped judiciary system has given them the lowest global conviction rate. Despite these obstacles the outlook is overwhelmingly positive. “South Africa has made remarkable progress closing the gap between historically privileged and disadvantaged groups.”10 With the aid of multilateral organizations that are committed to created a stable economy and political system South Africa will continue to progress.

South Africa is a continental leader, demonstrating its commitment to African progression by have leading roles in organizations such as the African Union and the New Economic Program for African Development. Current President Thabo Mbeki left us with wise words when he closed the World Summit for Sustainable Development saying

“Where there is every possibility to act to communicate a real message of hope, why is there despair! Since the means exist to banish hunger, why are so many without adequate supplies of food and others are faced with famine, including millions in this region of Southern Africa! Why are people being swept away to their graves by floods that are without precedent in recent history! Why do millions die every year from avoidable and curable diseases when science, technology and engineering have the means to save these human lives! Why do we have wars when we established institutions to end war! Why are there many who cannot read and write and count when, everyday, human intelligence breaks through many barriers of darkness to make the seemingly unknowable part of the ever-expanding stock of human knowledge! Why does the accumulation of wealth in human society produce human misery!”11


These questions resonate within us all and hope the answer will move us all toward action as they have done for so many already.

Works Cited

“Development: EU Relations with South Africa”. The European Commission. Dec.11. 2003. <http://europa.eu.int/comm/development/body/country/country_home_en.cfm?cid=za&lng=en&status=new > Nov. 10 2004.


“European Union.” Department of Foreign Affairs: South Africa. July 3, 2003. <http://www.dfa.gov.za/foreign/Multilateral/inter/eu.htm> Oct 15, 2004.
“Global AIDS Program: Country, South Africa”. Center for Disease Controll, US. Dec. 3, 2004 <http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/gap/countries/south_africa.htm> Nov. 29, 2004
Harrison, Graham. Issues in the Contemporary Politics of Sub-Saharan Africa: The Dynamics of Struggle and Resistance. New York: Graham Harrison, 2002.
Ihonvbere, Julius Omozuanvbo and John Mukum Mbaku, edts. Political Liberalization and Democratization in Africa. London: Praeger Publishing, 2003.
Mbeki, Thabo. “Opening Statement.” Summit for Sustainable Development. Johannesburg. Sept. 2, 2002.
Sisk, Timothy D. Democratization in South Africa: The Elusive Social Contract. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995.
Southall, Roger, edt. Opposition in Democracy in South Africa. London: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001.
“The EU- SA Partnership”. European Union in South Africa. June 15, 2004. <http://europa.eu.int/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/r12201.htm.> Oct. 29, 2004.
“Tutu says Poverty Making South Africa A ‘Power Keg’”. CBC News. Nov. 24. 2004
“UNDP in South Africa”. United Nations: United Nations Development Program. Sep. 21, 2004. <http://www.undp.org.za/> Nov. 21, 2004.
“ United Nations in the Struggle against Apartheid”. African National Congress. Mar. 21, 2001. <http://www.anc.org.za/un/ > Nov. 29, 2004
“USAID’s Strategy with South Africa”. USAID. Dec. 2,2004. <http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/countries/southafrica/> Oct, 10, 2004



1“Development: EU Relations with South Africa”. http://europa.eu.int/comm/development/body/country/country_home_en.cfm?cid=za&lng=en&status=new

2 ibid

3 “USAID’s Strategy with South Africa”. http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/countries/southafrica/

4 “Tutu says Poverty Making South Africa A ‘Power Keg’”. CBC News.

5 ibid

6 “Global AIDS Program: Country, South Africa”. http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/gap/countries/south_africa.htm

7 “UNDP in South Africa”. http://www.undp.org.za/

8 “The EU- SA Partnership”. http://europa.eu.int/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/r12201.htm.

9 ibid

10 ibid

11 “Tutu says Poverty Making South Africa A ‘Power Keg’”





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