Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) SARPN thematic photo
Country analysis > South Africa Last update: 2020-07-02  

National Religious Association for Social Development: Position paper


prepared for the NRLF meeting with President Thabo Mbeki, 29-30 April 2003


The building of a caring, democratic and equitable society through partnerships between the State and the National Religious Leaders' Forum (NRLF)

A perspective from the National Religious Association for Social Development (NRASD)

Formulated by Prof. Lionel Louw (Chairperson) & Dr. Renier Koegelenberg (Secretary)

24 April 2003

Posted with permission of the NRASD
[Download complete paper - 47Kb < 1min (14 pages)]     [ Share with a friend  ]

Executive summary: A vision for a new South Africa


    As religious communities we are committed to the building of a caring, democratic and equitable society through partnerships between the State, the religious sector and civil society.


    As religious community our vision is based on the following principles and values, which are fundamental to the building of a new South Africa: a just and equitable society; a caring society; a democratic society; a moral and honest society.


    As religious communities we are guided by the following principles in our relationship with one another: accept one another as equal partners, that we respect the diversity and denominational differences amongst us, that we strive to cooperate with one another (to learn from one another), to be fair to one another (i.e. that what we claim for our own denomination, we will also defend as the right of all other denominations).


    1. The State acknowledges the contribution and role of the religious sector.

      As religious communities we are grateful for that political leaders acknowledges the unique contribution and role of religious communities - specifically of all religious communities (as a correction to our past). Even more: apart from this acknowledgement, political support for formal cooperation between the religious sector and the different organs of the State was expressed several times by political leaders.

    2. The principle of subsidiarity and the importance of public-private partnerships

      The principle of subsidiarity, namely that different sectors cooperate formally to ensure the effective utilization of limited funding - with regard to social grants or community development programmes, but also with regard to economic development, is widely accepted in many parts of the world. It is also a key element of Government's strategy to foster public-private partnerships in many fields.

      The implications for the State…

      That the State (both on national and provincial levels) should treat all religions equal, that the procedures to access public funding should be simple, clear and transparent in order to foster equal access to public funding for all religions; that ad hoc grants to a select few should be replaced by a comprehensive and inclusive partnerships; etc.

    3. The rationale for formal cooperation

      Many governments channel a substantial portion of their international aid over religious agencies because they have proved to be closest to the people in need; because they have the best developed networks especially in areas where the infra-structure is weak; because they provide the most effective network at the most affordable costs available.

      Religious communities play a crucial role in the formation of values such as tolerance, responsibility, respect for life, love for your neighbour, etc. The functioning of our whole society pre-supposes these values, and are based on the fact that there are citizens that take responsibility for one another.

    4. What are some of the challenges the State faces?

      Despite goodwill at the level of political leadership, there are serious frustrations with the lack of capacity at senior management level within different Departments of Government - to translate statements on partnerships into programmes.

      There is a serious lack of management and administrative capacity (and networks) to implement poverty alleviation programmes, as well as programmes that are more of a development nature, within certain state departments.

      There is a serious lack of a clear policy framework to access public funding from government. There are no clear guidelines that are adhered to by different government departments (both on national and provincial levels), with the result that allocations made are perceived to be ad hoc: it is difficult to judge the basis for selection - even by those that have received funds.

      There is a short term approach that sabotages long term sustainable development.

    5. The capacity and some of the networks in the religious sector

      According to a preliminary estimate the total direct financial contribution by this sector to welfare, relief and developmental programmes in South Africa, is approximately R 1 billion per annum.

      In general two types of services could be distinguished: some of them refer to formal welfare structures or offices, e.g. to specialised institutional care centres or multi-purpose centres, and some to more informal (but still properly organised) local community development services. Many of these services are not limited to South Africa, but cover the Southern African region.

      The following range of services were identified in research: agriculture, capacity building and management; education (schools, pre-school centres, and specialised skills training such as computer training, training for domestic workers, literacy programme, vocational training); elderly; feeding schemes (focused on poor children and street children); handicapped (physically and mentally); health care centres; homeless and housing projects; legal advice services; family support services; micro-enterprise, income generating; multi-purpose centres; provision of water; rehabilitation programmes; support for political refugees; youth centres and children's programmes.

    6. Advantages of formal and structured agreements of cooperation

      The following are advantages that would follow from formal agreements between the NRLF and the State:

      • It would make religious communities co-responsible for the implementation of poverty-alleviation and other social programmes, and challenge them to contribute some of their resources. Religious communities become partners in the process, and not spectators;
      • It ensures better coordination of scarce resources, as well as the multiplication of resources (but avoiding unnecessary duplication): religious communities could access more international donor funding via religious networks;
      • Formal agreements (structured partnerships or "Block grants") would enable the NRLF to use such agreements to negotiate additional would also international funding - for priorities that were agreed upon with government! It respond to changes in the international donor community, due to the scale down of staff, to contract local (South African) networks as partners to implement programmes.

    7. Building blocks of a successful model of partnerships

      A successful model of cooperation should address the key problem: how could the available capacity and resources within religious communities be formally linked with the public programmes of the State? We are convinced that this is possible if we could create the following framework:

      1. A comprehensive Agreement of Cooperation between the Government and the NRLF - on behalf of the religious sector - is necessary.
      2. Important: the management and implementation of such agreements should be the responsibility of the NRLF: the key religious leadership is involved in the NRLF. The NRLF would create management committees that allocate and report back according to guidelines that were negotiated between Government and the NRLF. A Board of Trustees - with senior representatives from Government and the NRLF could oversee the implementation of projects.
      3. In its management procedures the NRLF would only allocate funds to projects and programmes on the basis of the following: proper business plans; proof of the capacity; an indication of what alternative resources would be contributed; clear financial reporting and auditing procedures, etc.
      4. As part of the management network the NRLF could implement a cost-effective decision-making system by using the existing representatives/expertise within the religious sector.


    According to the Human Sciences Research Council's surveys almost 80% of the people of South Africa trust their religious communities - the highest total of all institutions surveyed; they have the largest developed networks spreading into all the corners of South Africa, and they offer more than just administrative programme support - they are essential in the formation of values and value-systems in our broader society.

    What has lacked thus far, was a comprehensive and formal agreements between the State and the NRLF that could provide the framework to develop a sustainable, long term programme, to eradicate poverty in South Africa.

Octoplus Information Solutions Top of page | Home | Contact SARPN | Disclaimer