South Africa: Funding crisis in North West as Department of Social Development fails to pay grants

Many nonprofits say they are struggling to keep their doors open, and some have been forced to close due to nonpayment from the North West Department of Social Development.

This affects the livelihoods of staff and the services offered to the most vulnerable people in their care.

One such organization is the Tlokwe Crisis Centre, which operates out of Potchefstroom Hospital and helps victims of sexual offenses and gender-based violence.

The director says the center has not received funds since December 2021 and has therefore been unable to pay staff.

Essential services for the elderly and victims of sexual assault will soon be interrupted if non-profits do not receive their grants from the North West Department of Social Development (DSD).

Dozens of nonprofits across the province say they’ve been desperately trying to get funding for months. Some face closure.

One such organization is Age-in-Action which provides home care for seniors in rural communities. “What worries us is that our clients are being left behind,” said Mary Jane Segone, Provincial Director of Age-in-Action.

Segone said the organization last received funding from DSD in March 2021. She said they managed to get two months salary for staff but since June last year they had not been able to pay the staff. Some of the 24 staff members were unable to send their children to school, Segone said.

Some staff members have even taken the organization to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for non-payment of their salaries.

Three of Age-in-Action’s offices in the North West have already had to close because the organization could not pay the rent. A fourth office is about to close.

Communicating with the provincial department was a challenge, according to Segone. “We still hope they will come back to us,” she said.

Likewise, the Tlokwe Crisis Centre, an NPO operating out of Potchefstroom Hospital, is struggling to make ends meet. The center has not received funding since December 2021. The center provides services to victims of sexual offenses and gender-based violence, and sometimes also helps neglected children.

The centre’s director, Mpho Ntsundwane, said she had to work 48-hour shifts because staff could not afford to come to work. “I had to go in because the victims were there. We can’t leave the victims alone. We can’t close the center… I was exhausted.”

Ntsundwane said the department did not tell them what the reason for the late payment was, although the center sent all relevant documents.

The center usually receives around R600,000 per year. This covers food for victims, amenity kits, toiletries, center upkeep and staff salaries. The first two installments were paid at the end of last year and the third and fourth are still outstanding.

Lisa Vetten of the Care Work Campaign wrote to the national department, asking for urgent intervention for Age-in-Action and follow-up on overdue payments. Vetten said they plan to meet with National Department officials this week to discuss the matter.

In June 2021, the provincial DSD returned R144 million of unspent budget to the National Treasury for the financial year 2020/21.

The provincial DSD has not responded to our questions despite promising to do so more than a week ago. Spokesman Petrus Siko said the department would respond but never did. Thasbo Mosito, MEC’s ​​media liaison, promised to look into the complaints but never answered our questions.

Joel C. Hicks