South Africa

Last updated: 6 June 2024

Introduction

The South African legal system reflects a combination of legal traditions. The civil legal tradition is rooted in the Dutch colonial period whilst the common law tradition emanates from the English colonial period.  In addition, indigenous law remains a central part of the South African legal system.  The South African constitutional dispensation has, since 1994, further resulted in the development of common law in line with the Constitution and the invalidation of statutory laws which are found to be inconsistent with the Constitution.

The legal framework does not present significant obstacles for civil society organizations (CSOs) operating in South Africa.  Indeed, South Africa’s legislation is generally enabling and supportive of CSO activities.  In 1997 the Nonprofit Organizations Act (NPO Act) was promulgated. The NPO Act repealed the Fundraising Act of 1978 which was used by the apartheid government to suppress the fundraising activities of some organizations.

The NPO Act describes the State’s responsibility to not-for-profit organizations as follows: “Within the limits prescribed by law, every organ of state must determine and coordinate the implementation of its policies and measures in a manner designed to promote, support and enhance the capacity of NPOs to perform their functions.”  Despite this noble commitment, the challenge comes with the effective implementation of laws. The institutions responsible for the implementation of the relevant legislation are generally under-resourced. For some institutions it would be beneficial to review their effectiveness since coming into operation – or since South Africa became a democratic country.

The General Laws (Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing) Amendment Act (GLA Act) was signed into law in December 2022 and most of its provisions came into force in 2023. The GLA Act introduced significant changes to laws related to combatting financial crimes and the regulation of legal entities, including NPOs. Several changes have also been made to the Nonprofit Organisations Act of 1997 (NPO Act), including:

  1. Compulsory registration of NPOs making donations to individuals or organizations outside of South Africa or providing humanitarian, charitable, religious, educational or cultural services outside South Africa.
  2. Enabling the NPO Directorate to collaborate and co-operate with other organs of the state;
  3. Requiring NPOs to maintain and submit prescribed information about the control structures of the NPOs to the director of NPOs; and
  4. Providing for grounds for the disqualification and removal of office-bearers of NPOs.

Changes were also made to other laws, including the Companies Act of 2008 and the Trust Property Control Act of 1988, which both are aimed at identifying the beneficial owners of such entities and introducing eligibility criteria for trustees of trusts, including non-profit trusts.

This Civic Freedom Monitor (CFM) country note was made possible through the research conducted by Ricardo Wyngaard, Attorney-at-Law in South Africa.

Organizational Forms [1] Voluntary Associations Non-Profit Trusts Non-Profit Companies
Registration Body Not applicable Master of the High Court Companies Commission
Approximate Number 276,183 [2] 38,838 82,875
Barriers to Entry No legal barriers No legal barriers No legal barriers
Barriers to Activities No legal barriers No legal barriers No legal barriers
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy No legal barriers No legal barriers No legal barriers
Barriers to International Contact No legal barriers No legal barriers No legal barriers
Barriers to Resources No legal barriers No legal barriers No legal barriers
Barriers to Assembly Seven days advanced notification requirement; restrictions on assemblies near government buildings; excessive use of police force. Seven days advanced notification requirement; restrictions on assemblies near government buildings; excessive use of police force. Seven days advanced notification requirement; restrictions on assemblies near government buildings; excessive use of police force.

[1] Statistics published in the “Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment for the Non-Profit Organisation Sector in South Africa”.

[2] More than 55,000 organizations were either deregistered or marked as non-compliant between December 2012 and January 2013, presumably for reasons of non-compliance. The Department of Social Development reinstated all organizations that were deregistered in February 2013 and granted a six-month grace period for NPOs to submit outstanding narrative and financial reports, as required by the NPO Act. This came to an end on July 31, 2013, but the Department has, to date, not commenced with the de-registration process.

In May 2020, it was reported in Parliament that, “There were 228,822 NPOs registered in South Africa, of which 58.44% were non-compliant with the relevant legislation.” In November 2020, the Department of Social Development announced that it will implement a phased process to deregister NPOs registered under the NPO Act that are non-compliant. According to the Department, the first phase of deregistration would commence at the beginning of April 2021 and the second phase would begin from July 1, 2021 for non-compliant NPOs that were registered between 1998 and 2012. The third phase will begin on October 1, 2021 for non-compliant NPOs that were registered between 2013 and 2015. As of October 2022, it was not evident that the deregistration process has commenced.

In July 2021, a nomination form for candidates to serve in the Nonprofit Organisations Panel of Arbitration was published on the website of the Department of Social Development. The Arbitration Panel is responsible for, among other things, presiding over disputes in the event that a de-registered organization contests the grounds for its de-registration. No further formal announcement has seemingly been made by the Department on this process.

Population 62,027,503 (2022 est.)
Capital Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative)
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth male: 63.68 years female: 66.42 years (2021 est.)
Literacy Rate male: 87.7% female: 86.5% (2017)
Religious Groups Christian 85.36%, ancestral, tribal, animist, or other traditional African religions 75.48%, Muslim 1.69%, other 1.05%, nothing in particular 25.29% (2022 est.) Black African 801.94%, Colored 8.82%, White 7.38%, Indian/Asian 2.57% (2022 est.)
Ethnic Groups Black African 80.9%, Colored 8.8%, White 7.8%, Indian/Asian 2.5% (2022 est.)
GDP per capita $6,766 (2022 est.) (World Bank); $13,500 (2022 est.) (CIA)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 110 (2023) 1 – 193
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 56 (2023) 1 – 128
Transparency International 83 (2023) 1 – 180
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 78 (2023) 179 – 1
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Free
Political Rights Score: 33
Civil Liberties Score: 46 (2024)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
40 – 1
60 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1998
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 2002
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 2015
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (Op-ICESCR) No  —
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1998
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1995
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Yes 2005
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1995
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) No  —
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2007
Regional Treaties
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Yes 1996
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Yes 2000
Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Yes 2001
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa Yes 2004
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Yes 2002

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996 (as amended), is the supreme law of South Africa.  The current Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Assembly on 11 October 1996 and came into effect on 4 February 1997.

Relevant constitutional provisions include:

Clause 16 – Freedom of Expression:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes:

  • freedom of the press and other media;
  • freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
  • freedom of artistic creativity; and
  • academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

(2) The right in subsection (1) does not extend to

  • propaganda for war;
  • incitement of imminent violence; or
  • advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

Clause 18 – Freedom of Association: Everyone has the right to freedom of association.

Clause 36 – Limitations Clause:

(1) The rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only in terms of law of general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including-

  • the nature of the right;
  • the importance of the purpose of the limitation;
  • the nature and extent of the limitation;
  • the relation between the limitation and its purpose; and
  • less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.

(2) Except as provided in subsection (1) or in any other provision of the Constitution, no law may limit any right entrenched in the Bill of Rights.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

  • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996 (as amended)
  • Companies Act 71 of 2008
  • Companies Amendment Act of 2011
  • Non-Profit Organisations Act 71 of 1997 (as amended) (“NPO Act”)
  • Trust Property Control Act 57 of 1988 (“TPCA”)
  • Income Tax Act 58 of 1962 (as amended) (“ITA”)
  • Value Added Tax Act 89 of 1991 (“VATA”)
  • General Laws (Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing) Amendment Act 22 of 2022

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of any pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

There are three kinds of CSOs in South Africa, namely:

  • Voluntary associations that are established in terms of common law.
  • Non-profit trusts that are established in terms of the Trust Property Control Act, and
  • Non-profit companies that are established in terms of the Companies Act.

Any of these CSOs may, and if required, must register under the Nonprofit Organisations Act of 1997, provided that those CSOs comply with a number of requirements listed in that Act. In essence, the founding document of such CSOs must contain prescribed information (including the name, objectives, non-profit distribution constraint, governance structures, etc) and narrative and financial reports must be submitted to the Directorate for Nonprofit Organisations on an annual basis.

Public Benefit Status

South Africa uses a tiered regulatory approach toward public benefit status.

As a first step, the Nonprofit Organisations Act defines a nonprofit organisation as a trust, company or other association of persons established for a public purpose and the income and property of which are not distributable to its members or office-bearers except as reasonable compensation for services rendered.  Applicants must submit documentation to the Directorate of Nonprofit Organisations for registration.

Second, a nonprofit organization may apply for the status of “public benefit organization.” Among other requirements, the organization’s sole purpose must be to undertake one or more public benefit activities, carried out in a non-profit manner and with an altruistic or philanthropic intent. Public benefit organizations are restricted from using their resources to directly or indirectly support, advance, or oppose any political party, but they are not restricted from lobbying. They are entitled to a broad range of fiscal benefits, including a partial income tax exemption and, subject to certain conditions, an exemption on transfer duty on immovable property.

Third, Public benefit organizations may apply for the right to receive tax-deductible donations.

Barriers to Entry

The legal framework for each of the available organizational forms is generally enabling, and does not include barriers to formation, establishment or registration. Problems worth noting here are in regard to the establishment and registration of nonprofit organizations. Furthermore, the Nonprofit Organisations Act sets a fixed time period of two months within which registration applications must be decided upon.

Barriers to Operational Activity

There are no serious legal barriers affecting the operational activity of CSOs in South Africa.

It is also worth noting that opening a bank account has become a challenge for some not-for-profit organisations operating in South Africa. Community-based organisations that are established as voluntary associations will most likely have to wait for registration under the Nonprofit Organisations Act to open a bank account. Banks, however, have been willing to accept an electronic copy of the NPO Certificate, which can be requested from the Directorate for NPOs, as proof of registration. Organisations with board members who are based outside of South Africa may also find it a challenge to open bank account in South Africa.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

CSOs in South Africa are not prohibited from criticizing the government or advocating for politically unpopular causes.  There are no legal restrictions or governmental harassment of such activities.  CSOs that are involved with causes that are unpopular from a government’s perspective may ordinarily not attract significant funding support from government.  However, CSOs have been involved with the processes of drafting of laws and lobbying for legislation and government policies.  CSOs that have tax exemption cannot use their resources to support, oppose or advance the activities of any political party.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no legal barriers impeding international contact or communication.

Barriers to Resources

Generally, the law does not impose any constraints on the ability of CSOs to seek and secure funding.  There are no special rules for CSOs to receive foreign funding.  CSOs are permitted to carry out commercial activities, either directly or through a for-profit subsidiary. CSOs can compete for government funds based on objective criteria.  Government departments and development funding agencies have, however, been criticized by CSOs for having negatively impacted on the ability of CSOs to secure funding.

It is worth noting, however, the Consumer Protection Act of 2008 came into operation on April 1, 2011 and regulates, amongst other, direct marketing. In terms of this Act direct marketing includes approaching a person, either in person or by mail or electronic communication, for the direct or indirect purpose of, amongst other, requesting a person to make a donation of any kind for any reason. The National Consumer Commission (the Commission) has the discretion, in terms of this Act, to establish a registry in which any person can register a pre-emptive block (either generally or for specific purposes) against direct marketing communication. Regulations have been published by the Minister of Trade and Industry which also prescribe mechanisms to block direct marketing communication.

There are a few important implications for non-profits soliciting donations in South Africa once the relevant provisions of the Act and the regulations are implemented. Firstly, the Act will effectively allow individuals and legal persons to block non-profit organisations from soliciting donations by registering pre-emptive blocks. The regulations allow for the establishment of a registration facility. Secondly, all direct marketers, including non-profits soliciting donations from the public, will have to assume that a comprehensive pre-emptive block has been registered unless confirmed otherwise by the Commission. Thirdly, all direct marketers must register with the Commission (and annually confirm their details) and apply in writing to the Commission to find out if a pre-emptive block has been registered. Fourthly, non-profits applying to find out about pre-emptive blocks, will in all probability have to wait some time as the Commission will be required to put in place a screening and validation process in respect those registering as direct marketers. Pending registration, the direct marketer will not be able to obtain information on pre-emptive blocks.

Barriers to Assembly

Section 17 of the Constitution states that “Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.”

The Regulation of Gatherings Act (“The Act”) defines a demonstration as any demonstration by one or more persons, but not more than 15 persons, for or against any person, cause, action or failure to take action. A gathering is defined as any assembly, concourse or procession of more than 15 persons in or on any public road or any other public place or premises.

Advance Notification
Advance notification is required under the Act. Organizers intending to hold a “gathering” must notify the responsible officer from the relevant local authority of the names and addresses of the organizers 7 days before the date of a gathering. The responsible officer of the local authority can respond in one of two ways, namely:

  • Consult with the police regarding the need to negotiate or impose any condition on the proposed gathering. If the responsible officer is of the opinion that negotiations are necessary, s/he must call a meeting with the relevant stakeholders as provided in the Act; or
  • Notify the convener that the proposed gathering may take place.

If it is not reasonably possible for the organizer to give notice earlier than 7 days before the gathering, the organizer shall give notice at the earliest opportunity, but not less than 48 hours before the commencement of the gathering. If notice is not given less than 48 hours, the responsible officer may prohibit the gathering. It would therefore seem that spontaneous demonstrations are not allowed.

The Act is somewhat ambiguous with regards to the regulation of “demonstrations.” It is clear from the Act that the notification requirements are not applicable for demonstrations. However, the provisions of the Act dealing with the conduct at gatherings are also applicable to demonstrations.

As for counter-demonstrations, the Act empowers the police to restrict a gathering to a designated place or guide the participants along a route to ensure an appropriate distance between participants in situations of rival gatherings.

Time, Place, Manner Restrictions
The Act prohibits all demonstrations and gatherings in any building in which a courtroom is situated, or at any place within a radius of 100 meters from such building, except Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The magistrate of the particular district may, however, grant permission for demonstrations and gatherings to be held at such places. The Act also prohibits demonstrations and gatherings at designated areas in Cape Town and Pretoria. The Chief Magistrate and the Director-General for the Office of the State President may, however, grant permission for demonstrations and gatherings at those designated areas.

Furthermore, the police may in certain instances prohibit the holding of a gathering in a particular place. The criteria for police in such situations would include:

  • The availability of credible information under oath that the proposed gathering:
  • Will result in serious disruption of vehicular or pedestrian traffic, injury to participants in the gathering or other persons, or extensive damage to property; and
  • The police and the traffic officers in question will not be able to contain this threat;
  • The police met with or (if time does not allow it) consulted with specific people to discuss the prohibition of the gathering; and
  • The responsible officer provided reasonable grounds for the decision to prohibit a gathering.

It seems that this process can be manipulated, as the Act does not make provision for the convenor to contest such discretion by also providing information under oath.

Finally, participants at gatherings and demonstrations must not wear a disguise or mask or any other apparel which obscures their facial features and prevents their identification or which resembles any uniforms worn by the security forces.

Enforcement
The power of the police to protect assembly participants has been questioned in situations where there has been conflict between protesters and the police.

The manner in which the South African Police Services has dealt with legal and illegal gatherings in South Africa has also been the subject of much controversy. The death of 34 striking miners in Marikana in August 2012 sparked worldwide debate about the use of force by the South African Police. The Marikana Commission of Inquiry was subsequently appointed by the President to conduct an investigation into the tragic events. The report by the Marikana Commission of Inquiry was released in June 2014. The report was more than 600 pages and largely dismissed allegations of political interference, but recommended that steps be taken by the police to look into the suitability of the National Commissioner of Police and the Provincial Commissioner for the North West Province to remain in their posts and whether they are guilty of misconduct in attempting to mislead the Commission. The full report can be accessed by clicking here. The National Commissioner of Police, Riah Phiyega, was suspended in October 2015 pending the outcome of the investigation to determine her suitability to remain in office in light of the Marikana tragedy. The investigation officially commenced in the beginning of May 2016, and was finalized in November 2016. The report was handed over to the President of South Africa and parliament’s police portfolio committee as a classified report. The suspended National Commissioner has, according to media reports, resolved to have the report reviewed by a court of law.

Criminal Penalties and Fines
The Act lists a number offences that may result in a fine not exceeding R20,000 ($2,000) or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both. Offences include:

  • Convening a gathering without notice;
  • Failing to attend a meeting called by the responsible officer of the local authority after having received the notice;
  • Failing to comply with any provision regarding the conduct of a gathering or demonstration;
  • Contravening or failing to comply with the contents of a notice or a condition to which the holding of a gathering or demonstration;
  • Convening a gathering that is prohibited in terms of the Act;
  • Failing to comply with an order issued by the Police pursuant to the Act; or
  • Supplying false information for the purposes of the Act.

On November 19, 2018, the South African Constitutional Court handed down judgment in which it declared that section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act was unconstitutional because it made the failure to give notice or the giving of inadequate notice by any person who convened a gathering a criminal offence.

This sub-section requires that the convener of a public gathering must give written notice to the local municipality and it makes it a criminal offence to convene a gathering consisting of more than fifteen people without giving the requisite notice. A convener may invoke a defence that the gathering concerned took place spontaneously.

The Constitutional Court had to consider whether section 12(1)(a) limits the right entrenched in section 17 of the Constitution, which guarantees that “[e]veryone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions”, and, if so, whether that limitation reasonable and justifiable as required in terms of the Constitution.

The Court commented that: “convening innocuous assemblies without notice will be a crime because of how broadly a gathering is defined. Convening any assembly of more than 15 people in a public space to discuss ‘principles, policies, actions or failure to act of any government, political party, or political organisation’ without notice is a crime.’” In addition it commented that, “This breadth and, by all accounts, legislative overreach, point to how section 12(1)(a) results in criminalisation without regard to the effect of the protest on public order. This exacerbates the severity of the limitation. Multiple international legal bodies have condemned the categorical criminalisation of the failure to comply with notice requirements. Instead, the apparent standard required under international law is that every infringement of the right to freedom of assembly must be linked on the facts to a legitimate purpose.” The Court concluded that, “In balancing the above factors, it becomes clear that section 12(1)(a) is not ‘appropriately tailored’ to facilitate peaceful protests and prevent disruptive assemblies.”

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports UPR South Africa
National Report
Compilation of UN information
Summary of stakeholders’ information
Report of the Working Group
Decision on the Outcome
Draft Report on the eighth session of the Human Rights Council
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs South Africa
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes USIG: South Africa
U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: South Africa (2023)
Fragile States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports South Africa and the IMF
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment for the Non-Profit Organisation Sector in South Africa (2024)

National Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment (2022)

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library South Africa

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Events

On October 7, 2021, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) published its Mutual Evaluation Report entitled “Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures – South Africa” in which it concluded that “South Africa has not yet done an assessment of their broader NPO sector to identify those organizations, based on their characteristics or activities, that put them at risk of [terrorist financing] abuse. South Africa also has no capacity to monitor or investigate NPOs identified to be at risk of [terrorist financing] abuse.” With reference to FATF Recommendation 8, which seeks to prevent the misuse of NPOs, the FATF rated South Africa as non-compliant.

General News

Gauteng Department of Social Development misled court on reasons for funding delays (May 2024)
The Gauteng Department of Social Development claimed in the High Court that centralising control of its funding process for non-profit organisations by cutting out senior officials and appointing independent adjudication panels was necessary due to findings of “maladministration” by the Auditor-General. This is one of several misleading statements made in an affidavit deposed by the department’s acting head Bongani Ngomane and filed in response to a High Court application brought by concerned non-profit organisations.

Intelligence Bill will give SSA ominous powers (February 2024)
The State Security Agency (SSA) is making a stealthy bid to expand its powers, allowing it to stick its nose into all manner of political and private activities. Its vehicle is the new General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, currently being pushed hurriedly through Parliament. The Bill is intended to reform the agency, following the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and the earlier Mufamadi High-Level Review Panel, both of which exposed the role the agency had played in State Capture and which recommended major reforms.

New ‘spy bill’ lacks sufficient checks and balances and civilian oversight (October 2023)
South Africa’s proposed new ‘Spy Bill’ lacks the civilian oversight mechanisms to avoid abuse of its intelligence services, whilst vastly increasing the scope of government surveillance and vetting. The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (GILAB) of 2023 has sparked massive controversy because it allows mass communications surveillance. If signed into law, the GILAB would require that all new security companies, religious organisations and NGOs – and their owners and personnel – be vetted by the state in addition to possible vetting of existing entities including churches, shuls, and mosques.

Hate speech bill is a regression to apartheid-era censorship (September 2023)
Addressing the South African Parliament’s Committee on Security and Justice, international lawyers submitted that a proposed “hate speech” law, entitled the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, would violate the human right to free speech with egregious consequences for the country’s democracy. The free speech experts provided legal arguments as to why the bill is in violation of international human rights law.

CSOs ask for NPO Bill to be withdrawn (July 2022)
CSOs have called on the Department of Social Development to withdraw its draft Non-Profit Amendment Bill 2021 and demanded that it engages with the CSO sector and stakeholders. The Bill proposes the setting up of the NPO Registrar to strengthen the servicing, monitoring, and promotion of transparency and accountability of NPOs.

NGOs slam Motsoaledi for attack on Helen Suzman Foundation (June 2022)
Several NGOs have condemned Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s attack on the Helen Suzman Foundation over its intention to legally challenge his decision to terminate the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) at the end of the year. In a statement, Motsoaledi accused the foundation and other NGOs of trying to “dislodge” the government.

Census 2022 gets under way for count of South Africa’s transient population (February 2022)
Stats SA began counting the transient population at various sites as part of the nationwide Census Night activities, marking the official start of the Census 2022 count. The homeless, transients, and people living in hotels, lodges, hospitals and other communal living quarters are counted on Census Night. Speaking about the protection of personal information, Stats SA’s Trevor Oosterwyk said that information would not be made available to entities – not to the South African Revenue Service or ministers.

Civil society coalition condemns report to UN on inequality (July 2021)
The government submitted its latest “state report” to the ICESCR in May, missing  an October 31, 2020 deadline. The objective of the report was to provide an update on the recommendations previously made by the committee. But according to the Civil Society Coalition Campaign for South Africa’s Ratification of the ICESCR and its Optional Protocol, the government approached the exercise in decidedly unilateral fashion. “The South African state failed, despite the strong words to the contrary issued by the CESCR Committee, to consult with critical stakeholders such as the South African Human Rights Commission, civil society and structures of ordinary people, which flies in the face of the values of our constitution and the [ICESCR],” it said in a statement.

Court finds Rica Act unconstitutional (February 2021)
The Constitutional Court declared legislation aimed at preventing criminals from using cellphones for illegal activities unconstitutional, saying it did not provide adequate safeguards to render it lawful. The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism and its managing partner, Sam Sole, had filed an application to the top court for confirmation of the five orders made by the high court in September declaring the Regulation of Interception of Communication Act (Rica) unconstitutional.

Court cases mount against lockdown rules (January 2021)
The South African government is facing mounting legal challenges to its lockdown regulations as businesses, civil society groups, and opposition parties target issues from the prohibition on the sale of alcohol to the planned rollout of vaccines. Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) issued papers in the Johannesburg High Court this week to ask that government’s current and indefinite ban on faith-based gatherings also be lifted.

Secrecy Bill is still flawed and needs to be reconsidered (July 2020)
The Secrecy Bill needs to be completely reconsidered by Parliament. Various versions of the bill have been amended in a piecemeal fashion that has fundamentally undermined its coherence. As a result, the defective provisions of the bill, when taken together, compound the potential for infringement of rights.

South Africa enacts regulations criminalizing ‘disinformation’ on coronavirus outbreak (March 2020)
On March 18, the South African government enacted new regulations  criminalizing statements intended to deceive any person about COVID-19 or the government’s response to the pandemic. The regulations were published in the Government Gazette under the 2002 Disaster Management Act and carry penalties including fines, imprisonment, or both. “The COVID-19 pandemic must be taken seriously, but passing laws that emphasize criminalizing disinformation over educating the public and encouraging fact-checking present a slippery slope and send the wrong message to other countries that may be less measured in drafting such laws,” CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal said.

Citizens and civil society must fight to protect our democracy (August 2019)
Although citizens recognise the hard work done by most ethical leaders, as well as by ordinary South Africans, in the public, private and civil society sectors over the last few years to protect our democracy birthed by our liberation stalwarts, the sense of disappointment lingers in their hearts. The fight against corruption is far from over and continues to threaten the foundations of our democracy. The recently released auditor general’s report indicating the extent of corruption and poor governance in most of our municipalities is indicative of the threat that corruption poses to our democracy.

Ruling asserts right of protesters to assemble (November 2018)
On November 19, 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that it was constitutionally invalid to criminalise those who convene a public protest of more than 15 people without giving prior notice.

Committee Says Legislation Must Be Drafted To Regulate Churches (October 2018)
The Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency has suggested that legislation is needed to regulate those churches operating outside the law. The committee was briefed by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) on the commercialisation of religion and the abuse and exploitation of people’s belief systems.

Zuma’s role in dismantling SADC Tribunal slammed by court (March 2018)
Former President Jacob Zuma acted unlawfully, irrationally and unconstitutionally when he supported and took part in a resolution suspending the operations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal, the High Court in Pretoria ruled on Thursday. “It is clear that the president’s [Zuma] signature could not have ensured the respect of an institution as the respondents would have it. In fact, it severely undermined the crucial SADC institution, the Tribunal. It detracted from SADC’s own stature and institutional accountability and violated the SADC Treaty itself,” Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said in a unanimous scathing judgement on behalf of a full bench of high court judges.

SA drops in rule of law ranking (February 2018)
South Africa has dropped one position for its overall rule of law performance to 44 out of 113 countries in the 2017-2018 World Justice Project (WJP) index. The index is based on more than 110‚000 households and 3‚000 expert surveys. It looks at eight factors‚ including constraints on government powers‚ absence of corruption‚ fundamental rights‚ order and security‚ regulatory enforcement as well as civil and criminal justice. The top three overall performers were Denmark‚ Norway and Finland and the bottom three were Afghanistan‚ Cambodia and Venezuela.

NGOs forced to do more with less (November 2017)
Sustainability planning is something organisations in South Africa cannot afford to overlook. The funding environment is increasingly constrained. The possible reduction in international agency budgets and the notion that South Africa is a middle-income country and should fund more of its own development needs are both things that will impact funding for the Aids response.

‘State is trying to control religion and doesn’t listen to us’ (August 2017)
The large room on the first floor of Soweto’s Orlando Stadium — filled with about 400 members of independent churches and religious bodies — erupts into ululations and applause as Prophet Samuel Radebe, head of the Revelation Church of God, enters. “How do we trust such biased, abusive liars?” Radebe asks when he eventually addresses the gathering, mobilised by the All African Federation of Churches in response to what it sees as a bid by the state to control religion — driven by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. In 2015, the commission began investigating the commercialisation of religion and the abuse of people’s belief systems.

Comedians fight bill that will limit the freedoms that keep us laughing (February 2017)
Public comments on the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill were due at the end of January. A coalition of some of South Africa’s best comedians and satirists has taken a stand against the bill and filed submissions arguing that its hate speech provisions are unconstitutional.

Over 100 mentally ill patients dead in transfer from hospital to NGOs (February 2017)
Over 100 people have died as a result of being moved from the Life Esidimeni hospital to various NGOs, the Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has found. Makgoba released his report into the patients’ deaths on Wednesday and said the number could be greater because more people were coming forward with information. Life Esidimeni had been contracted to the Gauteng government for nearly 40 years, but Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu terminated that contract, citing costs. “All the 27 NGOs have been found to be operating under invalid licences. What I am saying is that the Gauteng Health Department took patients from a licensed institution and handed them over to unlicensed facilities,” Makgoba said.

President Jacob Zuma sends money-laundering bill back to parliament (November 2016)
President Jacob Zuma sent an anti-money-laundering bill that would have increased scrutiny of the bank accounts of “prominent individuals”, including himself, back to parliament, saying it might not be constitutional. In a statement, Zuma’s office said the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) bill was “very important and pressing” but it was concerned about some of its aspects, particularly those relating to “warrantless searches”. The bill, which is meant to bolster the fight against global financial crime by making it easier to identify ultimate owners of companies and accounts – including those of “domestic prominent influential persons” – was passed by parliament in May.

Whistle-blower bill one step close to becoming law (November 2016)
A bill that aims to offer whistle-blowers on crime greater protection from victimisation and harassment is now a step closer to becoming law. The Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill was passed by the National Assembly. But opposition parties have slammed a clause in the draft law that makes it a criminal offence to intentionally disclose false information and cause harm.

Hate speech is not a hate crime (November 2016)
Activists have voiced concerns over the chilling effect the inclusion of hate speech provisions in the Hate Crimes Bill could have on freedom of speech. Last month, the Cabinet’s decision to publish the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill for public comment was welcomed, but the inclusion of hate speech provisions has raised concerns.

Bill threatening journalism to be re-introduced to parliament (November 2016)
The Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill is expected to be introduced to parliament before the end of the year and anxiety around it still abounds. Critics argue that it gives too much power to government with not enough leeway for public interest. Critics are particularly concerned about its impact on investigative journalism.

NPOs who don’t toe line to lose funding (August 2016)
A crackdown by the Department of Social Development on non-profit organisations that don’t submit financial statements, have dysfunctional management structures or underpay staff, is looming, and those that don’t comply could lose government funding. Ncumisa Ndelu, a spokesman for the department, said they were monitoring and evaluating organisations that were not meeting performance targets as set out in service level agreements.

NGOs are ‘devils in a sheep skin’ (April 2016)
President Jacob Zuma’s son on Wednesday warned South Africans to guard against non-governmental organisations which were “devils in a sheep skin”. In a statement, Zuma’s eldest son, Edward, echoed sentiments made by State Security Minister David Mahlobo in his budget vote speech on Tuesday. reportedly told MPs.

Some NGOs are security agents of foreign forces (April 2016)
There are South Africans and NGOs who are collaborating with foreign forces to destabilise the country, State Security Minister David Mahlobo said on Tuesday. “Not everybody is our friend. The forces that are opposed to us are hard at work. Our NGOs play an important part in South Africa, but there are those who work to destabilise the state,” he told MPs during his department’s budget vote speech.

SA’s implementation of human rights laws ‘problematic’ (January 2016)
Human Rights Watch South Africa says while the country has strong human rights laws in place, implementation remains “problematic”. Serious concerns remain about the conduct and capacity of the South African Police Service (SAPS). A number of incidents in 2015 highlighted police brutality and the use of excessive and disproportionate force.

Marikana Report: Key Findings and Recommendations (June 2015)
President Jacob Zuma finally released the report of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Political figures were exonerated but Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s fitness for office was questioned. Those who committed killings, both police and strikers, as well as those who failed to protect employees, should be investigated, the commission found.

Info Bill Must Go to Constitutional Court (May 2015)
In a statement to mark International Press Freedom Day, South African National Editors’ Forum chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela said a public interest defence clause in the Info Bill would truly enhance the ability of media to assist in the fight against corruption. “We therefore reiterate our call on this day, to the ANC and President Jacob Zuma in particular, to send the Bill to the Constitutional Court for ratification before signing it into law,” he said.

South Africa Xenophobia is ‘Afrophobia (April 2015)
South Africa’s leading trade union has joined the chorus of condemnation of the latest wave of deadly attacks against foreigners in KwaZulu-Natal province. The xenophobic attacks at the weekend spread to the province’s largest township of Kwamashu where law enforcement agents were said to be overwhelmed. Hundreds of people have been housed by the local Red Cross in Durban, having fled their homes after the violence broke out two weeks ago. Police said close to 30 people had been arrested for looting and torching immigrants’ shops. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said it “condemned the unacceptable xenophobic attacks against non-nationals, particularly directed to fellow Africans”.

Info Bill Must Go to Constitutional Court (May 2014)
In a statement to mark International Press Freedom Day, South African National Editors’ Forum chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela said a public interest defence clause in the Bill would truly enhance the ability of media to assist in the fight against corruption. “We therefore reiterate our call on this day, to the ANC and President Jacob Zuma in particular, to send the Bill to the Constitutional Court for ratification before signing it into law,” he said. “The Bill is arguably the biggest threat to press freedom and freedom of expression since the dawn of democracy. We stand ready to challenge it in court should the president sign it into law.”

South Africa’s wave of discontentment (March 2014)
So-called “service delivery protests” often take place in semi-urban areas, far from South Africa’s wealthier and more affluent urban districts. About one-quarter of these protests turn violent, according to police estimates, sometimes leaving shops looted or libraries and clinics burnt to the ground. The causes of service delivery protests are as diverse as the problems facing South Africa’s poor. A lack of affordable housing, the accidental death of a child or the cut-off of the water supply can all trigger angry demonstrations. The protests have been especially common in Gauteng province, South Africa’s economic core. Police estimate that more than 500 protests have taken place in the past three months in Gauteng alone.

News Archive

South African police arrested for murder (January 2014)

NGOs must be ready to resist the interference of ‘guidelines’ (December 2013)

Mine shooting families picket South African government (September 2013)

UK should Revisit on South Africa and Concept of Aid (May 2013)

Joint Media Statement By Minister Dlamini and Ministerial Task Team On Non-Profit Organisations (February 2013)

Banking woes for charity suspected of financing Hamas (January 2013)

Proposals to Change the NPO Act? (January 2013)

ANC pushes secrecy Bill through NCOP (December 2012)

‘Insult law’ commonplace in many countries (November 2012)

Civil society statement on the occasion of the 2nd Southern Africa Regional Child Rights Conference in Johannesburg (November 2012)

Questions linger about police force in protest at mine (September 2012)

The Independent Code of Governance for Non-profit Organizations to be adopted by CSOs (July 2012)

Secrecy Bill breakthrough as ANC agrees to major changes (May 2012)

Secrecy Bill continues to receive criticism during Parliamentary hearings (April 2012)

New protests over Info Bill start today (July 2011)