Staff bail as Sangoco cash crisis deepens

Four senior staffers have resigned from the South African NGO Coalition (Sangoco) this month, as the funding crisis at Southern Africa’s biggest non-profit umbrella body deepens.

Head office operations manager Mabalane Mfundisi and research manager Fayrana Shabodien threw in the towel at the weekend, amid reports that Sangoco has battled to pay staff salaries for the second month running.

”The funding crisis will last for the next couple of months, despite solidarity support from Sangoco’s provincial structures. Those [staff] who want to go must therefore feel free to do so,” said Sangoco communications manager Hassan Lorgat this week.

”The situation has gone from bad to worse, but there is no need to panic. We have stabilised the situation, and are pulling out all the stops to try to save Sangoco. All the remaining top managers have taken a 60% pay cut instead of abandoning ship.”

Sangoco’s North West office this week transferred R100 000 to help the head office cover basic operational costs, with more ”soft loans” expected in coming weeks from other Sangoco structures.

”We used the North West loan on Tuesday to pay salaries for April, and have also been promised support from the Western Cape and Gauteng offices. The money is a pure loan, and every cent will be repaid,” Lorgat said.

He stressed that Sangoco’s provincial donors had approved the unorthodox loan scheme, because the entire organisation would collapse if its head office policy and leadership structures went bankrupt.

The growing funding crisis has already prompted a raid by South Africa Revenue Service auditors, and sparked threats of a wider staff rebellion following suggestions that core staff should sacrifice salaries and employment benefits to help save the 10-year-old organisation.

Neither Lorgat nor Sangoco executive director Zanele Twala would disclose the extent of the tax liability.

If Sangoco folds, South African NGOs will lose their largest national support and lobby network. The umbrella organisation currently boasts 4 000 NGO members, and runs capacity-building programmes ranging from financial and management training to fund-raising, research and legal support.

”Without Sangoco, civil society will be much weaker,” Lorgat said.

The funding crisis was sparked by the lapse of two core funding contracts with foreign donors in March, and Sangoco’s inability to find new financial backers.

”Foreign donors have reclassified South Africa as a mid-level developed nation, and are redirecting their funding to poorer countries,” Twala explained.

Sangoco has developed what it calls a ”rescue plan”, including moving out of its R16,000 a month head office, sending all its rented electronic equipment back to suppliers, and asking staff to work as unpaid volunteers until new funding can be secured. — African Eye News Service

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Justin Arenstein
Justin Arenstein works from Africa. Investigative journalist & #CivicTech strategist. Manages innovation fund tech labs across Africa. Founder @afriLEAKS @Code4Africa @AfricanCIR @HHAfrica Justin Arenstein has over 7519 followers on Twitter.

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