Will the SA government really deregister outspoken NPOs?

How seriously should we be taking threats to deregister outspoken NPOs? Recently, Murray Hunter from the Right 2 Know campaign, TAC General Secretary Anele Yawa, Sheldon Magardie from the Legal Resources Centre, and Simbongile Kamtshe, the Head of Programmes at the Association of Community Advice Offices of South Africa (ACAOSA) joined Inyathelo's Executive Director Shelagh Gastrow for a debate on the topic. But first, a little background...

Will the SA government really deregister outspoken NPOs?

In February 2015, The Free State ANC Youth League staged a protest march calling for the deregistration of the Treatment Action Campaign. The demand was in response to the TAC's ‘Fire Benny’ campaign, which called for the removal of the province's health MEC Benny Malakoane.

The position, said the ANCYL, crossed a line and rendered the TAC a political party rather than a non-profit organisation. According to march organisers, the TAC was advancing the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies as well as the agenda of Democratic Alliance.

Doctors working in Free State Health have made public devastating accounts of the life threatening conditions in the local hospitals such as buildings in severe disrepair, poorly trained staff, lack of basic supplies and equipment. The TAC maintained that the MEC has failed to fix the dire state of public health in the Free State. Instead, they say, Malakoane has only “denied the severity of the situation and refused to engage with organisations like TAC“.

Malakoane is facing more than 100 counts of fraud and corruption relating to crimes allegedly committed while he was the municipal manager at Matjhabeng local municipality in Welkom from 2007 to 2010.

A host of civil society organisations including Doctors Without Borders, the Rural Health Advocacy Project, Sonke Gender Justice and the United Front have since come out in support of the TAC.

While the positions of by the ANCYL are often dismissed, even ridiculed, the very thought that members of the ruling party would publicly demand government reprisals against a civil society organisation should give one pause. 

Further Reading: