South Africa has numerous inequalities within society and Inyathelo is a core place to convene and advocate on behalf of the nonprofit sector. An aspect of this involvement is preparing input and lobbying on current and proposed legislation, working with specialist partners. Inyathelo is currently involved, with other members of a working group, in providing input on the NPO Amendment Bill.
A National NPO Summit was hosted by the Department of Social Development (DSD) in 2012 with over 1300 delegates from around the country. Many resolutions and undertakings to review the regulatory framework, which would improve accountability and transparency within the sector, simply limped along for the next ten years. A Ministerial Task Team developed several Action Plans in early 2013 to amend The Act. The process was halted in 2014, however, as NPOs raised concerns about some of the proposals included in the 'Draft' Policy Framework on Non-Profit Organisations Law (March 2014). Then again, in May 2016, another 'Draft NPO Bill of 2016' was presented at a conference hosted by the SA Accounting Academy, an unusual choice and forum made by the DSD. All went quiet thereafter.
Cabinet finally approved the Non-Profit Organisations Amendment Bill, 2018 as gazetted on 5 October 2021. Unfortunately, this gave only a small window of opportunity for public participation and submission of comments to meet the final date by 30 October 2021.
Inyathelo accordingly called a sector-wide virtual meeting on 21 October 2021 to unpack fundamental changes proposed in the Bill. Sector representatives from 170 organisations found the Bill to be unclear, qualitatively weak and lacking in detail. Overall, there was agreement that the Bill was not fit for purpose. Representatives from across the country and various sectors – such as early childhood development, environment, youth, arts, and culture, grant makers, education, social justice, health, the media and more – wanted something done, and done fast.
The NPO Working Group of 15 members was appointed by 170 NPOs, representing an estimate of 10 000 groups across the Republic of South Africa, from large national NPOs to smaller Community Based NPOs spanning the full spectrum of registrations (Voluntary associations, Nonprofit Companies and Trusts), with the primary objective to give them a voice on legislation that implicates them, in this case, the Nonprofit Organisations Act,71 of 1997 (“NPO Act”).
Although the sector understood and supported the intention to cut red tape, improve efficiencies and create an enabling environment, in fact the proposed changes were complex and often contradicted such intentions. It was felt the Bill was substandard and had many errors. Too many clauses were open to interpretation, while some clauses were unconstitutional and could result in litigation.
On 2 September 2022 the General Laws (Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing) Amendment Bill 2022 was issued by Treasury. This has a huge impact on the nonprofit sector and five pieces of legislation including the Nonprofit Organisations Act, 1997; the Trust Property Control Act, 1988, the Companies Act, 2008 and The Financial Intelligence Centre Act, 2001 and the FICA Regulations Act.
Parliament will likely redraft the Bill before the end of October in readiness for their meeting with FAFT - this piece of legislation is vitally important to prevent any reputational risk to South Africa and not be grey-listed by the FATF.
This could exacerbate the process of the NPO Amendment Bill or inadvertently lead to its withdrawal.
It is the intention of the NPO Working Group, and the 170 participating organisations, to continue monitoring legislation and policies affecting the nonprofit sector and to keep abreast of the principles within the Presidential Social Sector Compact document.
Another example of Inyathelo’s lobbying work took place at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. It had become clear that organisations which lacked access to the internet or data, were doubly disadvantaged, by the pandemic itself and technological inequalities. Inyathelo consequently lobbied for more access to data and organised a digital fundraising campaign. This raised funds which were used to assist 18 nonprofit organisations with data vouchers.