Maverick Citizen


Mantashe’s fixation on NGO funding is a pretext to silence civil society’s voice as a watchdog of democracy


Wayne Duvenage is a businessman and entrepreneur turned civil activist. Following former positions as CEO of AVIS and President of SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, Duvenage has headed the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse since its inception in 2012.

Gwede Mantashe’s recent call for NGOs to publicly disclose their funding sources is a thinly veiled attempt to undermine the crucial work carried out by civil society organisations. This call serves as a diversionary tactic, drawing attention away from the real issues and governance challenges we face.

On Tuesday, at the Africa Oil Week event in Cape Town, the minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe, urged NGOs to reveal their funding sources. He also indirectly accused them of being problematic and baseless in their litigation and challenges, which in turn had a negative impact on investments in energy projects. 

It is vital to reorient Mantashe’s perspective. Instead of scrutinising why NGOs resort to legal action, he should introspect and question why they find it necessary to turn to the courts, invoking the rule of law to halt decisions that are forced on society. 

Mantashe’s obsession with exposing the funders of NGOs is perplexing. Whether or not these NGOs have millions of rands for litigation, research, or operational needs is irrelevant. If these organisations are legally structured and challenge legitimate issues concerning citizens’ rights, Mantashe should be transparent about his motives. His rhetoric is that of a bully, seeking to weaken opponents while possessing ample access to taxpayers’ funds for legal battles. 

Mantashe needs to understand that NGOs prevail in these cases not because they act frivolously or have a desire to squander donors’ funds. Rather, they uphold the Constitution and the rule of law to safeguard citizens from the abuse of power and government malpractice. 

Mantashe’s current outburst echoes past incidents of bullying tactics. His desire to unveil NGO funders is probably an attempt to threaten or coerce government-connected individuals sitting on various boards to intervene and cut off funds to NGOs. This tactic was witnessed in 2012 during the eToll litigation, where pressure was applied to fleet companies funding Outa’s legal battle (known as the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance at the time), weakening the organisation almost to the point of closure. 

This pattern of behaviour from Mantashe illustrates a hubristic and domineering character, demonstrating frustration when things don’t go his way. Instead of undermining NGOs, he should open his doors, invite them in, and strive to understand their perspectives and motivations for their actions. 

Mantashe’s fixation on the funding sources of NGOs is a distraction from the real issues. It is a pretext to stifle dissent and silence the watchdog role of civil society. His focus on certain donor funding foundations is misleading, as these organisations operate transparently, aiming to promote open and just societies aligning with democratic principles. 

South Africa is not alone in facing legal challenges from NGOs. Many countries worldwide experience similar situations. NGOs play a crucial role in protecting democracy and accountability, often challenging those in positions of power. Civil society organisations act as a necessary check and balance on government power — an aspect that should be embraced rather than shunned, as Mantashe has done. 

Given the current state of South Africa’s economy, it is imperative that government officials move beyond divisive rhetoric and collaborate with civil society. This collaboration is vital for achieving the transformation and growth that South Africa desperately needs. It entails embracing the valuable role of NGOs and addressing the root causes of their concerns, rather than fixating on their funding sources. DM 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Denise Smit says:

    And Mantashe created a senior position in his Department to monitor journalist articles as well as far as I know. Denise Smit

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Good then he will know i call him the Penguin Oswald Cobblepot,arch enemy of Batman

  • Bernhard Scheffler says:

    ” Mantashe .. accused them .. which in turn had a negative impact on investments in energy projects”.

    Nobody, but nobody, has had a more negative impact than he on those investments in those clean energy projects that are most needed, and that are most affordable. Why has he not yet been properly investigated, as recommended/demanded in the Zondo Commission Report of years ago?

  • id wY says:

    failure to take the real steps required by FATF (prosecution), instead implementing oversight of NGOs, through money laundering and now spying legislation. See the Amnesty report on India for similar tactics: Intimidate the Boards of the organisations that do the real work

  • Fuad XXX says:

    Was Mantashe not a miner. Another incompetent cANCer cadre perhaps?

  • Ann Bown says:

    The nonprofit sector, as a collective, is suffering under his wild and unsubstantiated accusations. Irresponsible for a Minister in the South African government. He must be fired!

  • f v says:

    If anybody heard ex-President Mbeki’s speech at the memorial for Pahad, they will realise that many in the ANC appear to see NGOs as the scourge of democracy.

  • Mmutle Mogoboya says:

    Mantashe should be grabbling with ways to reduce petrol costs rather than turn to NGO’s. The kind of minister who doesn’t know his duties and focus on the affairs of watchdogs. Done nothing good, even preventing the stealing of our good coal. He deserves replacement.

  • Pierre Rossouw says:

    It comes down to who pays what for what? I and we ALL pay taxes that uphold the salaries of ALL civil servants.

    They are CIVIL SERVANTS and we as taxpayers expect them to not only deliver the goods and services THAT WE PAY FOR but also to comply with what the electorate requests, requires and needs.

    There’s too much ego of the elected going around. Far too much of that and not enough of being civil an being servants.

    The attitude of entitlement is at the base cause of this.

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