More than two decades after the end of apartheid, South African society remains fragmented and unequal. Its Gini coefficient is among the highest in the world. Due to the legacy of apartheid the divides between rich and poor tend to overlap and align with other social dimensions such as residential neighbourhood, education, language groups and race, and this reinforces and deepens these divides.
Following the euphoric post-1994 Mandela period of reconciliation, racial tensions have come to the fore again in recent years. Class tensions have also become more pronounced, coinciding with racial tensions in some cases, but not in all. Significantly, a deep rift has appeared between decision makers, elites and the rising middle class vs. the ordinary people who continue to live in poor communities and have been frustrated by the slow pace of post-apartheid social change. Widespread government corruption and poor service delivery have strengthened perceptions of a disconnect between high ranking government officials and citizens, resulting in protests and unrest.
This reports considers NPO accountability to stakeholders, but recognises that this question is embedded in the challenges of a divided and disconnected South Africa. As in other countries around the world, South Africa’s non-profit sector has been shaped by changes in the country’s social, political and economic landscape. Accountability is particularly sensitive to such shifts.
In many ways accountability amounts to a relationship rooted in the recognition that there is a connection and a shared or reciprocal dependency between the NPO and its stakeholders. Therefore such divisions pose an important challenge to accountability.