State chokes charities

ACHMAT DANGOR

THE Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Equal Education and even the East London SPCA are at risk of being de-registered after an alleged “massive blunder” by a government agency.

More than 50000 non-profit organisations were de-registered by the NPO directorate, many of them without warning. The directorate falls under the national Department of Social Development.
The affected organisations risk losing huge amounts of funding as a result.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Mandela Rhodes Foundation have all been marked as “non-compliant” on the NPO directorate’s official register for NPOs.
Even the President’s NPO did not escape unscathed, as the Jacob Zuma Foundation was also marked as “non-compliant”.
This means these organisations have allegedly failed to comply with the NPO Act. The Act requires that registered NPOs submit various documents, including annual financial reports, shortly after the end of the financial year.
All the organisations approached by the Dispatch said they had submitted their documentation on time.
The Dispatch tried several times to contact both the NPO directorate and the national Department of Social Development, but their phones went unanswered yesterday.
Inyathelo executive director Shelagh Gastrow said the mass de-registration was an attempt by the directorate to “clean up” the register of inactive or problem NPOs, but because of their “incompetence” the process has gone awry.
At least 56000 NPOs were deregistered between March 2012 and January 2013.
“This cavalier practice of de-registering more than 50000 NPOs is unbelievable,” she said.
Gastrow added that the ramifications of the mass de-registration were huge, especially in terms of funding.
De-registered NPOs would no longer qualify for government or National Lottery funding. “The worst would be corporate funding though, as many of them demand NPO registration in order to work with them,” Gastrow said.
Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Achmat Dangor said staffers discovered the Foundation and Children’s Fund were marked as non-compliant despite having filed the documents on time. He said documents had subsequently been submitted by hand.
Chief executive for the Mandela Rhodes Foundation Shaun Johnson was surprised by their “non-compliance” mark in the register, and said they too had filed their documents on time.
“We are obsessive about compliance with governance,” he said.
“Non-compliant” NPOs are supposed to be given a warning of their status, after which they have 30 days to submit the necessary documentation. All of the NPOs approached by the Dispatch claimed not to have received any communique from the directorate.
Hundreds of Eastern Cape NPOs have been de-registered or marked as non-compliant, including:

  • The Old Selbornian Association;
  • East London Guild Theatre;
  • SPCA (Bathurst and Port Alfred district; Mthatha); and
  • The Border Rugby Football Union.

Those marked as “non-compliant” include:

  • East London SPCA;
  • Life Line Port Elizabeth; and
  • Eastern Cape Academy of Sport.

When told about the mass de-registration, East London SPCA general manager Sandy Taylor described the situation as “lunacy”.
Taylor was unaware of the SPCA’s “non-compliant” status, and said the organisation had been trying to phone the directorate since July last year, but no one answered the phone.
“We also have proof we couriered all our documents,” Taylor said.
Gastrow said the NPO directorate “haven’t answered their phones in 10 years”.
“I’m being deadly serious. I don’t know of anyone who has ever spoken to them over the phone.
“There is a huge amount of anger in the NPO sector,” Gastrow added.
She recommended both those NPOs de-registered or marked as non-compliant immediately resend the necessary documents through the online submission system for the NPO directorate. To access the NPO register, go to npo.gov.za. — michelles@dispatch.co.za

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