The poor, hungry, disabled and the abused could be dealt a devastating blow as Covid-19 brings the non-profit organisation (NPO) sector to its knees, to the detriment of the most vulnerable in society.
The sector, which largely depends on donor funding and good Samaritans, plays a critical role in vulnerable societies, providing critical care, service to the poor and assist with awareness and access to government services.
According to the Southern African NGO Network, a national research study released in October 2017 by the Civil Society in South Africa put the number of registered NPOs at was 145,152 in October 2015.
But the spread of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown to contain the virus has left the coffers of NPOs dry, rendering them unable to continue with their programmes and may not even survive the virus’ economic devastation.
The Alliance of NPO Networks has expressed disappointment at the lack of state Covid-19 support to the sector, saying this has caused severe financial strain.
“It is terrible and the defeating part is that there is nothing we can do about it.,” Nomveliso Ngesi, founder of Peddie Development Centre in the Eastern Cape, said.
“The little that we received to be able to feed the hungry have dried up. We work in poor areas – informal settlements – where people do not work.”
She said they have been unable to reach the poor and vulnerable in the deep rural areas.
Ngesi said it was baffling why the NPO sector, which she said was vibrant and played a key role in the country’s socio-economic programmes, was left out of the government’s Covid-19 relief aid.
“It is disappointing. Every sector has been affected by the lockdown and the stop in economic activities. Our donors are heavily affected and cannot continue funding us. As a result, we might have to close our doors,” she said.
Bheki Radebe, programmes director at the Radical Art Forum, said they’ve battled to raise rent money and stipends for 11 artists solely reliant on their creative work for a bit of income.
“We develop theatre programmes for clients to cover our costs and stipends but now that life has come to a standstill and we cannot do those programmes, there is no income. But government has left [us] out of Covid-19 relief programme,” he said.
The NPO Alliance said board members of many organisations were now personally liable for the debt incurred by their organisations.
“Many grassroots NPOs that are led by historically disadvantaged people have been completely excluded in the provision of Covid-19 services, while few blue chip NPOs led by historically advantaged people are being contracted to deliver services on Covid-19,” the alliance’s president, Nkululeko Nxesi, said.
“This practice does not only undermine our people but also entrenches the lack of economic and social transformation.”