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hands working together

The time for networking and collaboration is now

By Community, Current Affairs

This post, on networking and collaboration, is part two of a three-part series that discusses the role of innovative funding in our current climate.

Read part one over here. 

Community organisations are often so focused on the problems they are trying to address and so under-resourced that most, if not all of their energy goes into the day to day struggles to keep the wheels turning. Putting systems and processes in place that enables them to meet funders’ and donors’ requirements can be difficult, and are not always at the top of their agenda. Not prioritising putting systems and processes in place is not necessarily because of lack of interest in being accountable – it could be a simple matter not having the resources, and having to prioritise immediate service delivery.

The time for networking and collaboration

This creates a dilemma. Often, organisations that are closest to the biggest needs, are those who battle to get funding. The extent of their work and the lengths to which they go to serve communities with minimal resources often go unnoticed. Just as there is no time for putting governance systems in place, there is no time for polishing the marble and communicating what they do and what they achieve through their work. They just get down and dirty and do what is needed.

This phenomenon of informal grassroots organisations that do much-needed work with limited resources unearths two important issues: Firstly, it shows that communities have valuable assets, which are actually used in service of communities; and secondly, informality may have its challenges, but also brings advantages to the table.

Development planning, by nature, focuses on problems. The international development sector tends to work from a problem-perspective: there are problems in the world, and problems have to be solved. There may even be the notion that those to whom these problems “belong” are not able to solve them and that “clever people from outside” are needed to “fix what is wrong”. Most of us are familiar with problem tree analysis, and how that feeds into development planning.

Asset-based perspectives

The problem-solving approach represents a certain way of looking at, and engaging with the world, and specifically with the developing world. It may have undercurrents of “us” and “them”; it can be based on assumptions of “how things should be – what the ideal is”, without knowing what the ideal situation looks like from the perspective of communities; and it can, albeit unintentionally, promote a view that communities that need help have no usable assets at all – resources from the outside are what is needed to “solve the problem”.

It is essential to change this perspective, and to start looking through an asset-based lens? What assets are inherent in the community, and how can they be harnessed, magnified and strengthened? How can external resources be used to supplement what already exist in communities, and fill the gaps that exist?

hour glass

Embracing informality

Changing the way in which development role players look at communities should also involve looking differently at informality. The informal economy in South Africa is sometimes referred to as the “second economy”, while the formal economy is regarded as the “first economy” – the primary, the desired state, the ideal. This way of thinking has thus far not delivered the best possible transformative results and the notion of one integrated economy seems unattainable. Similarly, informality is often regarded as a challenge, and formalisation seems to be the logical solution on face value.

Maybe it is time to change the narrative from one that asks how informality can be changed to formality, to a narrative that asks how we can embrace the virtues of informality, and use these to the advantage of all. We have to admit that we may not even know exactly what the perks of informality are. However, community responses to providing food during the COVID-19 crisis has given us a glimpse into the agility inherent in informality.

cogs working together

Formalisation is not the answer

It is exactly informality, absence of red tape, and connectedness to immediate needs that enabled community organisations to jump into action and to almost immediately respond to hunger in communities. Some needs cannot wait for the outcomes of meetings, task teams to be formed, and bureaucratic systems to get the wheels rolling. A hungry child is hungry now and will go to bed hungry if they do not get food today.

Considering the connectedness of informality with fast-changing needs, its adaptability, the capacity to respond swiftly, and the ability to provide relevant services and solutions, it may be counterproductive to attempt to promote formalisation. Considering that formalisation will obliterate some of the best assets inherent in informality, it may be necessary to find solutions that would retain the advantages of informality whilst enabling informal structures to connect better with formal systems and funding opportunities.

Another benefit of collaborative approaches is that it shifts the focus from financial resources (capital) to a much broader and multi-dimensional concept of resources, which recognises and uses the inherent value (capital) inherent in shared knowledge and relationships.

There are many different types of capitals[1], [2], which together, enable holistic community progress and development.

Better together

The value of intermediaries are becoming increasingly evident in many contexts, and could also be the solution for connecting informal structures with the resources they need but which are located in formal structures that have fixed requirements for working with others. The gap between formal and informal can be bridged by intermediary organisations, who can relate to both the world of formality and the world of informality. Such bridging structures can be other community organisations which have become more structured and adept at engaging with government and donor funding structures, and can step in for smaller on-the-ground and emergent community organisations with limited resources for building systems and structures. Another option for bridging the gap is working with convening agents who are able to bring stakeholders together and who are able to “translate the language” of the informal to be understandable to the formal, and vice versa.

The answer therefore lies in networking and collaboration. It lies in pooling strengths and resources, and working with others to make the most of available resources, instead of competing for resources. This kind of collaboration will not only address the immediate needs of more informal organisations, but will also gradually build the capacity of such organisations to work with others, and to engage with the formal sector.

Making the most of all resources

Ultimately, it is not an “either-or” situation, but rather a case of “we need both”. By combining and connecting informality and formality, a better system can be created. Where funders are more in touch with community needs, and communities can access external resources in an accountable manner.

Another key advantage of such an approach is that it enhances nuanced responses which take context into account and moves away from “one-size-fits-all” projects. Where a standard “recipe” is followed. Of course, recognising and encouraging complexity in programming has implications for monitoring and evaluation. These are key aspects of accountability, and changes in how programmes are approached, developed and implemented will also lead to changes in approaches to planning, monitoring, evaluation, reporting and learning (PMERL). The COVID-19 crisis and pivoting of programmes will undoubtedly shape MERL in future.

By Fia van Rensburg

Stay tuned for the next post:

Part 3 of the 3-part series: IT IS TIME TO TALK ABOUT AGENCY AND INTENT

[1] The eight capitals



Dancing Jerusalema: We are inspired by the spirit of the COSUP team in Mamelodi Pretoria

By Community, Evaluation

We watched the COSUP team in Mamelodi dancing Jerusalema. And we left inspired.

In our recent reflection on the highlights of being a researcher and evaluator, we shared how our work gives us the opportunity to get a glimpse of a wide range of real-life situations. Often these situations are defined by conditions that are not optimal. And where real and seemingly insurmountable challenges occur. Often, in these situations, we find the most inspiring glimpses of hope and joy. These moments show the passion and resilience of actors in the development space.

Read more on our newsroom

COSUP Project

We are currently conducting work which has introduced us to the Community Substance Use Programme (COSUP). COSUP is an evidence-based drug harm reduction programme, which is implemented by the City of Tshwane’s health department, through a partnership with the Department of Family Medicine from the University of Pretoria.

This programme is ground-breaking, as the first comprehensive drug harm reduction programme in the country. Programmes that focus on substance use often focus on prevention strategies and demand reduction, or law enforcement aimed at supply reduction. Harm reduction is an essential component of a comprehensive response to drug use. It is embedded in a human-rights approach which departs from traditional punitive approaches. It recognises the humanity, dignity and rights of persons who use drugs.

Read. more about how COSUP gives hope to substance users

Dancing Jerusalema

As part of our engagement with COSUP, we conducted a virtual site visit to one of the COSUP facilities in Mamelodi, Pretoria. Through this site visit, we gained a deeper understanding of where and how this dedicated team provides professional services to drug users in the community. As well as how they do this with the highest level of compassion and care.

A delightful add-on to our data-gathering was a fun video the team shared with us. It’s not directly related to the focus of our data collection, but very relevant in showing us the team spirit and energy of this team, who are doing often difficult work under challenging conditions. We are inspired by the COSUP team.

By Fia van Rensburg

nelson mandela

Mandela Day 2020: Is There A Magical Future On The Horizon?

By Community, Current Affairs, Legacy

Can we as Africans create a magical future where our continent achieves its full potential in difficult circumstances? 

We are all creating our own future by our actions and decisions every day. We are also collectively co-creating the future of our country and our continent. What is our mindset about the future  – are we creating this story in hope or in despair?

quote by robert breaault

Source: Quote Fancy

 Remembering Nelson Mandela, we remind ourselves that:

nelson mandela quote

Reflecting Back

Thinking of our previous blogs on scenarios for South Africa, we are reminded of three possible futures[1]:


Mandela Magic: A story of a country with a clear economic and developmental vision, which it pursues across all sectors of society in the face of stiff competition and high barriers to success.

Bafana Bafana: A story of a perennial underachiever, always playing in the second league when the potential for international championship success and flashes of brilliance are evident for all to see.

A Nation Divided:  A story of a South Africa that steadily gathers speed downhill as factional politics and policy zigzagging open the door to populist policies.

These scenarios may have been turned upside down with COVID-19 exploding all over the world!

COVID-19 virus

Source: MIT: Reopening Too Soon Could Cause “Explosion” of Coronavirus

Disruptive Change

Our understanding of disruptive change was rudely enhanced by our first-hand experience of the mother of all disruptions. Being on the receiving end of disruption is a big shock to most.

It may appear that COVID-19 will chew us up and spit us out. That sounds like a bad thing, right? But some things are better when crushed and transformed. Like coffee beans. Hard and bitter in their original format, but delightfully addictive when roasted, ground up and brewed in hot water.

meme about coffee

Doe Zantamata – Home

Considering that coffee is something that is so much better when roasted, crushed, and boiled, they are not fragile.  In fact, for coffee to become the best it can possibly be, it needs some pretty rough treatment – it can only become something special if it is exposed to adverse circumstances which enables it to reach its full potential. So, if coffee beans are not fragile, what are they then?

fragile and robust

Coffee beans are antifragile. And antifragile is what we need right now. It is more than robustness – it does not only withstand shock, it benefits from it. In his book, “ Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder”, Nassim Taleb defines antifragile as follows:


Is Africa Antifragile?

Thinking about Africa, the big question is whether Africa is antifragile? Will COVID-19 be what spurs Africa on to realise its full potential?  In his latest book, “Africa First. Igniting a Growth Revolution”, the Africa analyst, Jakkie Cilliers[3] contemplates the question: “What prevents Africa, with its bountiful natural resources, from translating that potential into prosperity?”

Through 11 scenarios he shows how the African continent can ignite a growth revolution that will change the lives of millions who were experiencing poverty and into employment. The book identifies key levers for sparking the growth revolution.

These are opportunities that technology offers to leapfrog into the future, fundamental transitions needed in agriculture, education, demographics, manufacturing, and governance. Considering the projected devastating impact of COVID-19 on poverty and unemployment, this roadmap for how Africa can “capitalise on its boundless potential” to “catch up with the rest of the world” could be worth considering.

The way in which we respond to the challenges posed during and after COVID-19 will determine if we choose to create our future via a path of despair or via a path of hope. Now, more than ever, it is in our hands, as Africans, to create the world we want to live in.

quote about fragility

Source: Quotefancy

By Fia van Rensburg

[1] South African Futures 2035, South Africa in ‘sweet spot’ for growth, South African Futures 2030: How Bafana Bafana Made Mandela Magic by Jakkie Cilliers

[2] Antifragility Definition

[3] Three possible futures for South Africa | Jakkie Cilliers | TEDxJohannesburg

[4] Africa First! Igniting a Growth Revolution



We Need More Heroes to Make our Dreams Come True

By Community, Current Affairs

This is part three of a 3-part blog on food security in the time of COVID-19 and climate change. We are juxtaposing recent developments against our rich treasure of scenarios that have created a vision for South Africa throughout the journey towards and into democracy. These scenarios remind us of the best possible dreams for the country and could give hope for the future. They provide a common thread that could pull us through the current challenges. At the same time the scenarios we have reviewed also provide valuable insights into what could prevent South Africa from taking the best possible course.

While the government has made some worthy efforts to address issues of food security, the inability to find creative solutions to ensure that the NSNP continues to reach its usual beneficiaries, cannot be regarded as a success. Section 27 has proposed a number of creative solutions in this regard, and have expressed their concern about the apparent lack of collaboration between the DBE and DSD: “We have noted that these current interventions are being funded through DSD’s Disaster Relief fund and Social Relief fund, at R900 million and R500 million, respectively. While we welcome the utilisation of DSD funds, we are baffled as to why the DBE is not contributing funds from the NSNP towards these efforts.”[1]

kid planting food

Who are the heroes?

Perhaps the lack of coordination and the inability to find swift and creative solutions is not so surprising after all. In our work as evaluators of government programmes, a recurring theme, over many years and across many sectors is indeed, the inability of the government to find joint, integrated solutions. This needs to change. There will in future simply not be enough resources to continue to work in silos.

The real heroes in the current food crisis are those who do not necessarily have power, status or money. The heroes are those who kept on working tirelessly and with dedication despite their own fears and needs. Existing feeding schemes and soup kitchens had to deal with increased demand, others pivoted on the crisis and reinvented themselves into new terrain of providing food packages to hundreds of recipients in record time.

The heroes are the NGOs, the churches, the women at the soup kitchens who kept on giving even though they did not know if they had enough to feed all who would turn up. The heroes are the young men and women who are investing their time in food gardens to ensure that there is enough to keep soup kitchens and feeding schemes running on a sustainable basis. What sets them apart is that they are doing all they can, often with limited means, and they keep on doing it every day, without any concern for “what is in it for me”. Government, and all political parties should take a leaf out of the book of these ordinary citizens, who made the difference in these difficult times, who stepped up to ensure that less children go to bed hungry, who made sure that those in dire straits can cling on to hope, and perhaps some dreams.

food security in cape town

We showcase some of these heroes here:

Tsepo Sejosengeo is a 26-year-old South African who has committed to serving his community during a challenging time. Tsepo head’s up an organization called Ukwazana Lwethu Youth Development that is based in Khayelitsha.  He channelled his efforts into helping his community, including opening a soup kitchen, which relies on the generosity of donors

The Bonteheuwel Development Forum has been working tirelessly for the past four months, putting their hearts and souls into delivering essential food relief in the Bonteheuwel community. Co-ordinated by Henrietta Abrahams, the group of volunteers deliver food to 17 blocks in the community. This effort of 34 feeding schemes manages to feed approximately 20,400+ people per week.

Souper Troopers supports 150+ regular feeding schemes which range from existing non-profits who were working in the area before the virus hit. There are thousands of heroes, from many communities and organisations, working tirelessly every day to feed people in the battle against hunger.

Climate change will not wait for Coronavirus to disappear

The food security issues that are magnified during this crisis is a reminder that there is no time to waste to get ready for the food security challenges that are expected due to climate change. Sub-Saharan Africa will bear the brunt of these challenges, and we should not think that climate change is politely waiting in the wings for the Coronavirus to disappear. Climate change will challenge food security, and it is creeping up on the world slowly, but surely and relentlessly.

Coronavirus has shown the world how dangerous it is to underestimate a threat when it is not yet tangible. It has also demonstrated what an avalanche caused by catalytic impact looks like. Hopefully, the current challenges will propel our government to take the lead to enable all actors in society to play their role, to work towards a common goal, which links up with the development world’s dream for a greener, fairer and more prosperous world.

By Fia van Rensburg

[1] Section 27

washing hands

Going “Back To Normal” Is Not An Option – COVID-19 And Local Government

By Community, Current Affairs

We will not “go back to normal”. It is time to reset to 00:00:00 and start building a better society. The question is how.

Going forward differently is essential. How that will happen is unclear.

“So no, I don’t want us to return to normal. I want us to use this as an opportunity to change, to create systems and social structures that create deep and lasting equity and a world where we work together for the common good. One can dream, right? If anything, this crisis should teach us that we are all connected.” – Anne Price1

Navigating the new normal

If anyone thought life would go “back to normal” after the lockdown ends, perhaps with some slight changes, they were wrong. Very wrong. The end of the initial extended lockdown will see us entering an uncertain period of phased restrictions and graded regulations, based on emerging evidence of where, when and how fast the COVID-19 virus spreads. 

At a time when most of South Africa’s middle and upper economic classes are coming to terms with the shock that life as we knew it is history, that times are tough now. And will be even tougher as the crisis unfolds, In its aftermath, those who are less fortunate and are familiar with economic hardship may hope that government responses to COVID-19 may be a shimmer of hope that a long-neglected service delivery crisis may be taken more seriously in future. 

Upscaled service delivery under the COVID-19 state of disaster

Under the current disaster management regulations, the burden on local government to respond quickly is evident. Amongst the plethora of other things that have to be implemented under the disaster management regulations, Municipalities are, for example, directed to provide water and sanitation services and to make immediate plans where these services are not generally available. Such as in high population density settlements, rural communities and informal settlements. And to provide “other appropriate means, like water tankers, boreholes and storage tanks in water constrained communities that have limited access to municipal water supply”2

Interestingly, a review by Van Niekerk (2014)3 of the South African Disaster Management Act No. 57 of 2002 and the National Disaster Management Policy Framework of 2005, pointed out that while this policy framework “placed South Africa at the international forefront by integrating disaster risk reduction into all spheres of government through a decentralised approach”, a state of good practice had not been achieved at the time.

Van Niekerk (2014) was of the view that the absence of clear guidelines to local municipalities was one of the weakest aspects of the Act and Framework. “A significant finding of the research is the emphasis placed by all respondents on the silence of the DMA and NDMF with respect to the exact role and responsibility of local municipalities in South Africa (van Niekerk, 2014: 871 – 872). 

Government response

Now, with an actual national state of disaster in action, Local Government is guided by Government Notices4 from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), and the overarching guidance of the National Command Council under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The responsibility placed on Premiers, Members of Executive Councils (MECs) responsible for local government in the nine provinces and Mayors and Traditional Leaders institutes to implement the regulations, and SALGA’s responsibility to disseminate information, support municipalities and advocating for the interests of municipalities is highlighted in a recent Local Government Bulletin published by the Dullah Omar Institute5.

There has, however, been some questions regarding the composition and powers of the National Command Council6. “They7 said, among others, the command council ‘appears to us to constitute a centralisation of power that is impermissible under the Disaster Management Act’.”. The establishment and set-up of the command council was also questioned: “…problem is that the NCC only consists of 19 ministers; where are the remaining ministers?”.

Some concern has also been voiced about the powers given to Municipal Managers during the lockdown. According to De Visser and Chingwata8, the disaster regulations change the constitutionally regulated system of delegation in municipalities: “They (the regulations) instruct each municipality to make sure that all decisions that would normally require the approval of the council, a committee of the council, or the mayor (whether executive or not), will now be taken by the municipal manager.”

While the regulations only allow Municipal Managers to make decisions that “cannot wait until after the lockdown”, De Visser and Chingwata cautions that decisions taken by Municipal Managers under the current dispensation will have to be reported and ratified in the first Council or relevant Committee meeting. And that elected representatives have to continue to exercise oversight over the executive and the administration during the lockdown, and that the COVID-19 disaster should not ever become an “excuse to do away with democracy”. 

Cape Town town hall

Silver lining

Soon after the declaration of the state of disaster in March 2020, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) has given municipalities a pat on the back, for “adhering to the range of directives issued by the Minister of COGTA in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic”. And continued to “call on Executive Mayors and Mayors, working closely with the municipal troika, provincial and national government public office bearers, to play their role and assist the nation in curbing the spread of COVID-19.”9

In some media reports, the upscaled COVID-19 service delivery to under-serviced communities was hailed as “a silver lining” in the crisis. Others pointed out that “it is too soon to say whether – or the extent to which – the Covid-19 emergency makes immediately possible what has been impossible for the previous 26 years” (Rudin, 2020)10.

In the same article, Rudin refers to alarming figures in the Department of Human Settlements’ Master Plan, launched in November 2019: ”Buried on page 400 of her [Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s] report was the admission: ‘The current percentage of the population receiving reliable water services [is] lower than it was in 1994.’ This means that more than 5.3-million households and 21-million people don’t have clean water, and 14-million people not having safe sanitation. Rectifying these shameful infrastructural deficits almost 26 years after apartheid would not only take a further 10 years but would cost R898-billion’, she said’.”

Sustainability of the current response may be unrealistic

The severity of the current crisis is such, both in terms of the extent of the crisis and the rapid pace at which it develops; and its potential direct impact on loss of life, that the government has no choice, but to do everything it can to assist vulnerable and under-serviced groups. In a highly uncertain situation, there is an appreciation for what is being done, but there are multiple questions on sustainability and the future.

There is no certainty on the duration of the additional support that is being provided at present. Will it last for the duration of the pandemic? And how long will it take for South Africa to get COVID-19 under control? Does the country have the resources to sustain this level of support during the pandemic? Are all vulnerable communities reached? 

Perhaps more importantly, are questions regarding the post-COVID-19 phase. It may not be possible to provide water trucks and portable sanitation for an indefinite period. But what then? How will the transition be mediated? 

municipal deliveries

Municipal service delivery, capacity and accountability crisis

The local government service delivery, capacity and accountability crisis has been with us for decades, and despite many capacity-development plans, turnaround strategies, and other initiatives, the situation remains dire.

When Auditor-General (AG), Kimi Makwetu released municipal audit results for the 2017/18 financial year mid-2019, the headlines read: “Auditor-general reveals shocking state of South Africa’s municipalities”11. This BusinessTech report highlighted various performance deficiencies regarding infrastructure, and pertaining to water and sanitation the following was noted: 

  • 48% of municipalities did not have a policy or an approved policy on water maintenance; 
  • 29% did not assess the condition of water infrastructure; 
  • Water losses were above 30% at 39% of municipalities; 
  • Water losses were not disclosed at 9% of municipalities;  
  • 49% of municipalities did not have a policy or an approved policy on sanitation and maintenance; and 
  • 31% did not assess the condition of sanitation infrastructure.

Audit outcomes

In addition to service delivery constraints, municipalities have been struggling with accountability and governance issues for many years. The same BusinessTech report quotes Makwetu as saying that “deteriorating audit outcomes shows that various local government role players have been slow in implementing, and in many instances even disregarded, the audit office’s recommendations…”. This means that “the accountability for financial and performance management continues to worsen in most municipalities”. 

The Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) audit of for the 2017/18 financial year showed significant regression in audit results12:

  • Out of the 257 municipalities and 21 municipal entities audited, the audit outcomes of 63 were worse than in the previous year, while only 22 improved; 
  • Only 18 municipalities have received clean audits, and this is 33 less than in the previous year; 
  • The percentage of unqualified opinions on the financial statements of municipalities decreased from 61% to 51%, and according to the AG but the quality of the financial statements “was even worse” than in the previous year; 
  • Only 19% of the municipalities were able to provide financial statements “without material misstatements”; and 
  • 65% of the municipalities that produced performance reports, had “material flaws” in their reports, and that these reports were, therefore “not credible enough for the council or the public to use”.


In the committee discussion, it was mentioned that deteriorating accountability had a detrimental impact, not only on the financial health of municipalities but also on service delivery and municipal infrastructure maintenance. The committee discussion highlighted several factors that contributed to this situation, amongst them lack of consequences for transgressions and irregularities, and the high number of municipal managers and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) who were in acting positions. 

Some municipalities are doing well. Some are consistently achieving clean audits despite having the same challenges as their under-performing counterparts; and the AG mentioned that best practices at well-performing municipalities included stable leadership, commitment to a strong control environment and effective governance. Such municipalities also took audit action plans seriously and proactively addressed audit findings and emerging risks. 

Municipal finances

Already before the COVID-19 crisis, various challenges with municipal finances were discussed in the NCOP Select Committee on Finance. Following a briefing from National Treasury on the state of local government and financial management (status as at 30 June 2018)13, National Treasury officials reported that more municipalities found themselves in “financial distress”: 125 municipalities in 2017/18 (almost half of all), compared to 95 in 2012/13.

This was due to more municipalities approving unfunded budgets, coupled with a seeming inability to collect revenue. The impact on municipal creditors was that municipalities were unable to pay them within the required 30-day period. In addition, “51% of municipalities had overspent their operating budget, and 36% had overspent their capital budgets.14”.

On the positive side, it was reported that “municipalities closed the 2018/19 financial year with a positive cash balance of R50.1 billion”, and that the major contributors were the metros and local municipalities. However, already then, with the exception of the metros, municipalities had been experiencing an increase in creditors, and this, together with non-payment by consumers were increasing financial pressures. 


Accountability in a state of disaster

Irrespective of these concerns, it can be agreed that the local government is at the forefront of responding to the implications of the social and economic implications of the crisis triggered by the pandemic. The need for local government to respond swiftly to a rapidly-changing landscape in the time of the pandemic puts the spotlight on accountability and emphasises the importance of a well-functioning local government sphere, and inter-governmental structures.

The need for accountability in a state of disaster should not be forgotten. In this regard, Van Niekerk (2014) pointed out that a robust monitoring and evaluation system should accompany the NDMC, covering all aspects of disaster risk management, with feedback loops that enable corrective actions. 

COVID-19 and recovery plans

By mid-May, three metropolitan municipalities Cape Town, Johannesburg and eThekwini , were applauded by the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs for presenting their plans to combat the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) in their cities, as well as their recovery plans to the committee. 

The committee recognised the cities’ efforts regarding initiatives to provide food and shelter to homeless people and to sanitise public spaces and transport hubs. At the same time, the responsibility of cities to be transparent and accountable for the spending of COVID-19 emergency funds was emphasised15.

Future prospects for local government

The COVID-crisis is showing us exactly how important local government is. However, it can be foreseen that the local government will be in a weaker financial state than before.  In some instances, the current crisis has presented sterling examples of joint efforts and collaboration across divisions of class, race, creed and many other divisions.

This is what gives hope in a time when it is not clear how the terrain of heightened need and expectations coupled with more limited resources will be navigated in future. Amidst these challenges, the opportunity exists to start afresh and create a new normal, which may be a more equal society, where access to basic services is permanently improved in an accountable manner. 


[1] There are words I really hate right now

[2] COGTA COVID-19 Disaster Response Directions, 2020

[3](PDF) A critical analysis of the South African Disaster Management Act and Policy Framework

[4] Government Notice 43291, 7 May 2020.

[5] Municipalities and COVID-19: A summary and perspective on the national disaster management directions

[6] Lawyers mull action on powers of Covid-19 National Command Council

[7] Advocates who questioned the powers of the COVIC-19 National Command Council

[8] Municipalities and COVID-19: What the national disaster management directions mean for municipal governance

[9] SALGA News

[10] Covid-19 has a silver lining – The Mail & Guardian

[11] Auditor-general reveals shocking state of South Africa’s municipalities

[12] Ibid.

[13] This briefing covers the same period as that referred to in the above-mentioned AGSA report.

[14] State of Local Government Finances and Financial Management: National Treasury briefing

[15] Three metros reveal Covid-19 response plans

Africa's illegal drug trade

Africa’s illegal drug epidemic fuelled by organised crime and ineffective policy

By Community, Current Affairs, Research

Over time, there has been a huge rise in the illegal drug trade in Africa. The number of drug users is estimated to increase to a total of 14 million drug users by 2050. 

ENACT, a project that builds knowledge and skills to enhance Africa’s response to transnational organised crime, recently published a press release that explores the causes of this epidemic. 

From organised crime and weak governmental policies, Africa’s drug trade is expanding at a rapid rate. 

Overview of the drug trade in Africa

While Africa was previously only considered as a transit region for drug trafficking, today the continent is increasingly becoming a consumer and destination market for all forms of drug abuse.

The distribution of individuals using illicit drugs in African regions during 2018 was as follows:

  • West Africa – 55% – 5.7 million
  • Eastern Africa – 19% – 1.9 million
  • Southern Africa – 12% – 1.3 million
  • Northern Africa – 8% – 0.8 million
  • Central Africa – 6% – 0.6 million

ENACT shares that, “In the past few decades alone, the number of people in West Africa who use illegal drugs or prescription opioids for a non-medical purpose has more than tripled from an estimated 1.6 million in 1990 to 5.7 million in 2018.” 

“In the next 30 years, sub-Saharan Africa will see the world’s biggest surge in illicit drug users, with its share of global drug consumption projected to double.”

Reasons for the rise of the drug trade

The rise of the presence of illicit drugs in Africa is due to far more than just addiction. In areas where organised gangs and corrupt politicians run the show, the drug trade has free reign. 

Organised crime

Africa has a reputation for it’s organised crime that has spread on a global scale. These groups work in syndicates to trade all sorts of illegal produce. This poses a threat to the environment, health and safety of individuals, and to the escalation of the drug trade.

From the illegal trade of pangolins and perlemoen, to cross border arms trafficking. These organised crime groups are causing environmental damage and fuelling national conflict. These trade routes are well established – and greatly feared – making the movement of illicit drugs both convenient and lucrative. 

ENACT quotes, “West Africa’s role has also expanded as a global trafficking hub for drugs, particularly cocaine. An underground economy has developed around the production and distribution of methamphetamines, particularly in Nigeria. A growing heroin economy has emerged from the international drug smuggling route down the East Coast of Africa for shipment to international markets.”

Weak policies

Sadly, organised crime has found loopholes in the system. By taking advantage of weak policies and partnering up with corrupt government officials. The African drug market is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Criminals take advantage of secure innovations to further their business. Such as blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies and various trading platforms on the dark web. 

Criminal governance systems are facilitating drug trafficking along various routes, such as the East African coast which has become a frequented route for heroin trade. The heroin trade in this area “plays a significant role in local and national politics in countries along the eastern seaboard of Africa”. 

This lucrative trade becomes attractive for corrupt officials, making the epidemic even more challenging to counter. 

“Participation in drug trafficking offers political, security and business leaders windfall profits, says Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime’s Mark Shaw, an organised crime expert. ‘They can conduct electoral and security campaigns, feed patronage systems, or take a fast track to wealth and power. In turn, politicians and security leaders can offer traffickers protection or even assistance.”

Recommended solutions

The African drug trade and the politics that they are attached to are complex and controversial. When criminals hold as much power as they do then various communities are put at risk when these groups are challenged. 

There needs to be an intention and proactivity in creating sustainable drug intervention programmes. The response to the demand for the drug trade in Africa needs to be supported with strategy, evaluation and research. 

The drug trade fuels crime and violence, with drug proliferation leading to increased levels of crime and violence in communities. This heightens safety risks.  Over the years, Development Works Changemakers (DWC) has been involved in several projects relating to the crime and safety sector. These include research into various crime and safety aspects and evaluations of projects designed to reduce crime and create safer communities. These projects include, but are not limited to: 

  • Midterm evaluation of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s five-year strategic implementation plan
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime baseline, endline and impact assessment of the Line Up Live Up Programme in South Africa
  • Implementation and evaluation of substance abuse programmes for the Western Cape Provincial Government, Department of Social Development
  • Implementation and evaluation of the youth safety and partnership programme for the Western Cape Provincial Government, Department of Community Safety

The drug trade cannot be eradicated – but a deeper understanding of the causes and effects is imperative. Greater efforts, alliances and commitments are required to fund, resource, plan, prioritise and implement policies, strategies and programs to better deal with this epidemic and the negative and damaging impact on communities.

For more information on best practices in the crime and safety sector, if you need help to design a new programme, or evaluate an existing programme, please contact Lindy Briginshaw on

drug trade route