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Civil society organisations ask for NPO Bill to be withdrawn

The Bill is ‘clumsily drafted, contained mysterious provisions, and had been rushed’, say NPO’s. File Picture: Brenton Geach/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

The Bill is ‘clumsily drafted, contained mysterious provisions, and had been rushed’, say NPO’s. File Picture: Brenton Geach/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jul 3, 2022

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This article first appeared in the 30 June 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.

Cape Town - Civil society organisations have called on the Department of Social Development to withdraw its draft Non-Profit Amendment Bill 2021 and demanded that it engages with the sector and stakeholders.

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The public participation period for the bill ended two weeks ago. The bill seeks to amend the current Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) Act, 1997 which according to the department was meant to create an enabling environment in which NPOs could be formed and function optimally.

The proposed amendment addresses the challenges faced by smaller NPOs, deals with abuse of NPOs and simplifies accessibility procedures. It also proposes the setting up of the NPO Registrar to strengthen the servicing, monitoring and promotion of transparency and accountability of the NPOs.

Following the release of the draft in 2021, non-governmental organisation Inyathelo called a sector-wide meeting where a total of 180 representatives elected a Working Group.

Inyathelo and NPO Amendment Bill Working Group chairperson Nazeema Mohamed, said the bill was clumsily drafted, contained mysterious provisions, and had been rushed.

Mohamed said though the sector understood and supported the intention to cut red tape, improve efficiencies and create an enabling environment, in practice, the proposed changes were complex and often contradict such intention.

“The bill has been badly drafted, not only in terms of the mistakes but the preamble is inconsistent with the content. We have been successful in getting the initial deadline extended but it has been a challenge with the content of the bill and the kinds of proposals that had been made.

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“Initially, we were going to collaborate with the department, however, due to the sectors analysis of the bill, we sense that it should be withdrawn,” she said.

Mohamed said if the recommendations were adopted it would constrain the civil space, where human rights and social justice organisations that speak against human rights abuse and social justice would be restricted.

“We have had a good working relationship with the department and they have allowed us to raise difficult questions and have been responsive and we hope that the Portfolio Committee would also understand why the sector rejected the bill in its current form,” she said.

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Mohamed said they wanted a functional civil society that would be free to organise, speak out and be accountable.

Department of Social Development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant failed to respond to questions we sent.

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