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Humanity has run so far down the line in scientific discoveries that have made life better. I am referring here to the advent of electricity, airplanes, computers, Internet and the list is endless. The development from the feudal system into capitalism - from autocracy into democracy - has moved beyond any mind boggling event. This is reflective of our own history since the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 from Victor Verster prison, which changed completely the South African outlook to this day.
Participants in the development of world affairs hold different views of our own reality, which is unconsciously influenced by our own nature as imperfect human beings, and the more we think, the more we think about. The more complex the thinking, the more complicated the reality becomes. Reality has the power to surprise thinkers, and thinking has the power to create reality (George Soros: 2000:24).
None of the apartheid thinkers including Dr H.F. Verwoed (the architect) ever thought South Africa will be a democratic state to the service of all its citizens, the continent and the world at large. The reality that Dr Verwoed and other oppressors created was defeated during the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. South Africa was set in a developmental path to ever change our human condition. Even though we acknowledge to be imperfect human beings, but nothing is as satisfying as to be in charge of our own political, social and economic destiny. We therefore have the power not only to create our reality, but to be surprised by reality as we take lessons from our fallible mistakes.
Designing a new South Africa
We believe in the importance of rooting proposals for the new South Africa that is democratic, prosperous, non-racial and non-sexist, in the soil of current political, social and economic reality. Therefore, our emphasis is upon the process of transformation from the world that is to the world that might be if certain conditions might be established. It is our intention to highlight things that are central to this transformation, and civil society participation in the processes leading to this transformation.
Building formidable leadership on social front to equal the task. We need to increase our social entrepreneurs to innovate on our development processes and programmes so as to be efficient in our output and effective in the use of our resources. Civil society ought to see itself as transformation agents with not just a mandate, but also capability to effect change in the lives of people.
In sharing these views, the South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) hopes to encourage a way of thinking about the new South Africa that is dynamic rather than static and that conceives of the future in terms of alternatives rather than as a single dogmatic possibility. The future should be informed by rational expectations that are underpinned by the ability to change course if unforeseen circumstances appear on our horizon. We should have the capacity to embrace new ideas brought about by the changing reality.
Technology has brought to such marvellous state of development that we have achieved unthinkable milestones and changed our lives for good, even though at some point has accelerated our inclination to self-destruction. Our emphasis here will be on improving access to this tool for acceleration of the development of democracy, especially the socio-economic and good governance.
SANGOCO and the Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT) have engaged in a robust programme of changing the world of civil society engagement with the developmental agenda in South Africa. It has come to our realisation that empowering civil society in the age of information, requires constructing new ways of thinking and tools in the information and communication technology (ICT) area. Our resolve is to ensure that information sharing across the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector becomes a living force charged to consolidate our efforts, improve our communication, link us to sides of knowledge, solidify our networks, and generally give us access to the world of finance through donors and other international financial institutions. We cannot forget the international NGOs that continue to be invaluable resource as we build our capacity in areas of lobbying and advocacy, research and development.
The Tipfuxeni Project
Tipfuxeni is a Xitsonga word meaning wake up and do things for yourself. It is an inadequate explanation, but comes close to what the concept is. One must try to view African problem as having African solutions and I therefore would use African terminology to be in that thinking mode. We believe that generating this indigenous knowledge using global technology would help to advance the development and outreach of civil society to tackle issues such as poverty, inequality and the scourge of unemployment.
The Tipfuxeni Project allows interaction of the civil society sector through ICTs. The project further allows the donor community to align itself to the sector in terms of the goals and achievements envisaged. The project draws from government the developmental agenda as captured in the National Development Plan (NDP), different departmental growth and development strategies, and corporate South Africa for their corporate social investment.
This project is by its own nature a mobilisation of resources, human and monetary, for a fight against past injustices and practises that were a crime against humanity. Here we refer to the legacy of apartheid system that produced an advanced economy for whites and a secondary economy for the black masses and thereby producing a highly unequal society. Our aim is to create not just an interactive platform for dialogue, but also an instrument that will facilitate organisational relations properly constituted for development. In addition, the project also contributes to relations that match donors, government and civil society for the improvement of our socio-economic development, economic management and good governance of our institutions.
We support the idea of creating an open society driven by values of transparency, accountability and democracy. A society in which all are open to opportunity, but more importantly one in which even the least among all will develop sufficiently to desired potential. Our intention and purpose is to bridge the gaps of a divided society constructed to perpetuate poverty and inequality to one where resources are shared for the benefit of all, but of course dialogue is primary, access to knowledge is paramount, resources are key and the Tipfuxeni project is the foundation to build on.
In conclusion, we recognise the enormity of reconstructing our society and the achieved goals since 1994. It is an insurmountable project and requires us to think outside the box. We are also aware that there are political parties that in a populist way, call for economic freedom without from political society some are, in the most populist way, continue to call for economic freedom without even qualifying that in a programme.
SANGOCO and SANGONeT remain resolved that work has to be done by all sectors. Government will lead and civil society will complement its efforts. Civil society will also contribute to ensuring that transparency and accountability become central to the transformation project.
- Jimmy Gotyana is president at the South African National NGO Coalition.