Call for more time to consider compulsory NPO regulation - IRR

Organisation says it is imperative that NPOs remain free from political interference and state direction

IRR requests more time for civil society to consider compulsory NPO registration and regulation

10 October 2022

The South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has called upon Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance to significantly extend, by at least two months, the comment period on the proposed General Laws (Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing) Amendment Bill.

Hidden deep within the bill are provisions that will make it compulsory for non-profit organisations to register with the government and subject themselves to the oversight of the State. The IRR opposes such a move in principle, after it was instrumental in the 1990s to having the current liberal Nonprofit Organisations (NPO) Act adopted. The process in the 1990s was calm and considered, unlike the present rushed process.

The bill was made publicly available for comment on 27 September, with a deadline on 10 October (today). This call for comments was only accessible on the independent Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s website, and could not be found by the IRR on the official Government Printing Works website where Government Gazettes are published. Nor was a call for comments immediately accessible on the website of the Department of Social Development, the portfolio responsible for the regulation of non-profits, or that of Parliament itself.

It is therefore likely that most interested parties are not aware of what government intends doing.

The urgency around the Amendment Bill appears to be the government’s wish to avoid South Africa being “greylisted” internationally. Greylisting means a country is designated a high-risk jurisdiction in which to transact, making imports and exports among other things more expensive and difficult. However, it was the government’s own tardiness over recent years that has resulted in the present situation.

Says Martin can Staden, IRR deputy head of policy research: “Civil society and in particular non-profit organisations are pillars of constitutional democracy. It is imperative that they remain free from political interference, as sections 18 and 19 of the Constitution contemplate. Only by having an independent non-profit sector that government be held to account, not to mention the millions of South Africans who are in some way dependent upon charity and assistance from these entities.”

“This cannot be sacrificed simply because government has allowed an avoidable crisis to come about. If the NPO Act is to be amended, like in the 1990s, the process must be calm and considered.”

Issued by Martin van Staden, Deputy Head of Policy Research, 10 October 2022