I suggest the editorial is not bashing NPO support staff as over-paid, and perhaps Letsholo in “May Editorial Offensive” read it wrong.

 (1)  The editorial was quoting from a conference, not making a suggestion.

(2) The quote came from a consultant’s experience in the NPO sector, not plucked from the air.

(3) The consultant did not say “support staff are over-paid” – this implies they are not up to their job.

(4) She said NPO’s pay their admin staff more and their managers less than the market does.

(5) The Editor, far from saying that overpaying the norm was a problem, suggested other sectors should follow this income equalisation strategy. 

As good editors do, the editorial covers two angles, so Letsholo might endorse the editorial after a second reading.

Finally, thanks to SANGONET for giving NPO’s this voice. The editorial covered an important topic and the community had a chance to air opposite views. The public had the chance to make their own mind up. All four are crucial to constructive debate and progress. SANGONET’s website lowers barriers to communication – most important in the little time left to NPO managers squeezed by chasing funds and running projects.

Errol Goetsch

Now we know why Jacob Zuma took that infamous shower! He was the

one violated, and - as the judge was at pains to point out - relying, of

course, on psychiatric science, this is the correct response of a rape 

victim. A curse on his accuser, lying there is her shame and not  making

any effort to wash it off! She should have known better.

And we also know that Jacob Zuma is a real man, 100% Zulu to boot.

He can spot a woman interested in him a kanga away. Even his

daughter was there to witness it, and she, of course, is completely

objective  and is only interested in the cold hard facts, as our

esteemed judge was quick to recognize. Nothing subjective about a

daughter testifying on behalf of her father. Banish the thought. Our

esteemed judge did. The woman was inappropriate from beginning to

end. She 'wanted' something from Zuma, same as all the people who

constantly knocked on the door of this 'our man of the people',

she hung around when everybody else left, she dressed like a tart

(why, she did not even have on underwear!), she kept on trying to

distract 'our man of the people' away from his very important work, she

entered his room (long before he had any intentions of entering her), her

skin absorbed the baby oil (no expert forensic testimony here, only oral),

and then, she had the temerity to cry rape. Witch, she was looking for it.

Lucky we don't burn her at a stake (only her effigy and under garments)

but just send her into exile. We are such a forgiving people. She should

now be allowed to live her life in peace, enjoying all the democratic rights

that 'our man of the people' was willing to sacrifice his life for.

But one cannot help wondering. What did she have to gain? Surely with

her known HIV/Aids status she would want to live as stress-free a life

as possible. Surely she would not want to willingly bring anguish and

anxiety into her life. She must have known the toll a trial would take,

especially taking on someone so powerful?

One cannot help wondering. Had she maybe reached the point where

enough was enough! Where her outrage outweighed all other

considerations? Life, health, reputation, country? Was she just too angry?

Where she would finally say no, even if all would crucify her with their

own yeses. Was this just something she was simply doing for herself.

Finally! I wonder.

But what is most puzzling, but which for our esteemed judge, did not

seem to be all that material. How many of us leave the consensual bed

after a most 'delicious' encounter? How many of us leave the memory of

the foreplay (and let's not forget the baby oil), the glow of the

consummation, and the warmth of the embrace (especially after a hot

shower) to the cold and emptiness of the guest room? Why leave?

Especially when every intention until then had been to snare the man?

Why leave, when you've at last achieved what you set out to do?

And - if you were one of those proverbial hangers-on - wanting to take

advantage of the generosity of 'our man of the people', why not take

the lobola? After all, did you not earn it? Was that not your intention in

the first place? Why forego all? All future favors! All potential patronage!

So many questions, but such a definitive answer. Who, I wonder,

dare judge our judges!

- A. Non


As a past manager and adviser in the corporate sector and now a manager and adviser in the non-profit sector, I can both accept Lisa’s observations and appreciate your concern about inroads into non-profit values. The questions underlying Lisa’s talk and your paper ask what place the market has in the non-profit sector today and what it takes for the non-profit sector to be its best in the future.

I take Lisa to be saying non-profits do not apply capitalist principles of management that strongly. This brings the good news that the sector is still safe from capitalist values. It also brings the bad news that not every non-profit will be a high-performance centre of excellence vigorously winning some local battle against HIV, illiteracy, domestic violence or reuniting street kids in a loving family.

The ideal would be a non-profit sector that is not only safe from capitalist incursion, it changes business behaviour. Let us not think that business has all to teach and nothing to learn. Yes, the cold war is over, the socialist challenge is finished, wage-labour and private property dominate in the former USSR, China and India. But the world is not a happy place. The current high gold price shows the anxiety in financial markets as Pres. Bush takes the US and the world down dark geo-political paths. We must not think that the market has developed management science to a position where its challenges are concretely understood and solved. The failures in corporate governance – in Barings Bank, Parmalot or Enron and here in South Africa, in MacMed, Regal Bank, Masterbond and LeasureNet are immense. The market failures are colossal, from the financial sector collapses of the 1990’s to CFC’s, ozone holes and global warming today. And structural defects in both the theory and the practice of management in South Africa make managers act within silos and take technically weak decisions whose unintended consequences are poorly reported. Capitalism has a way to go before it is good at being capitalist.

For me the clear and present danger is not that bean-counting bureaucrats will get non-profits to re-organise themselves and bring in Western or Japanese or Chinese or Korean or Bolshevik industrial discipline. Bean counters will struggle to translate the half-formed, ahistorical and silo-blinded tools of management science for the alien world of non-profits. The famous ratios of corporate finance cannot cope with a world without debt, shares and profit. They may try, but they will struggle. Nor will capitalist ruthlessness take root easily in the non-profit sector. There are many cultural obstacles to this, including our highly developed social conscience and strong developmental approach. Nor is there pressure from donors for factory-style industrial disciple. Why should there be? Donor organisations are also non-profits. The multinational donors often resemble governments focusing on procedure rather than businesses focusing on performance. Even when the donors are business-like (i.e. CSI departments) they are located at the soft side of the business (marketing or corporate affairs) or function outside the business altogether as a separate foundation, far from the hard side of production engineering. Yes, there are CSI departments in South Africa who are under instruction to add to profits, but thankfully their numbers are small, the rest act as cost and not profit centres. I see the current situation as one where non-profits are separate to businesses and no one is asking us to change. So what’s the real deal?

For me, the clear and present danger is that non-profits are separate and unequal to business. Our projects are less likely to be excellent and our organisations are less likely to be sustainable. This is not to say that businesses are excellent and sustainable. The failure rate in IT projects and corporate mergers and acquisitions is between 80% and 90%, and 80% of start-ups in South Africa close within 5 years. Whole industries can close – hemp, arms and asbestos – and reopen – prostitution and gambling. But business failure is not non-profit success. Are our development projects turning the tide? Are there successors when our NPO’s close? When NPO’s under-perform, society hurts physically, because we need more projects, whereas we would probably survive without another shopping mall or petrol station. As things stand, we get more malls and stations by the day, but not NPO’s. It hurts morally too, because we want good, ambitious and successful people to become social rather than business entrepreneurs. We want corporate volunteers in NPO’s to go back and reorganise their work on new principles.

The danger to me is that the non-profit model attracts too few entrepreneurs to change their business, inspires too few volunteers to reorganise their workplace and gets too few donors to stop their funding cycles and stay for life. This says to me we need either a compelling alternative to the market or a genuine engagement with it. Easier said than done. On the one hand, the world is short on attractive alternatives. On the other, we seem to engage with the capitalist model just to copy it, or we do not engage at all. I saw nothing on the list of “progressive management models” to ( to make the capitalist sweat or the socialist gleam. It seems we muddle between the two options, making us neither as productive as capitalism nor as moral as socialism.

So how good is the non-profit sector really? It is hard to know without indicators and information. Facing the donors, we’d talk the talk confidently of our progress. Facing the mirror, are we that sure? It’s a question of personal standards and subjective experience. What I can suggest are two factors making the sector appear worse that it really is.

A tilted playing field. Just as women need to be better and stronger to make it in a chauvinist world, so too must non-profits be because business picks the easier options. Finding it hard to sell tax plans to the rich? Try finding homes for orphans. Finding it tough to sell to customers? Try begging from donors. Trying to please your customers? Try pleasing the community. Trying to keep the mine open? Try solving unemployment, domestic violence, poverty and functional illiteracy. Worrying about growth? Try worrying about jobless growth. Our playing field has income inequality. We lack the taxpayers that government has and the income-assets that business has. It has customer inequality. We work at the “base of the pyramid” where the problems are harder and the resources are fewer. We have cost inequality. Business can, and often does, externalise its costs – pumping toxins into the air rather than pay for filters, or closing jobs and moving the cost of feeding families from its payroll to the UIF. Businesses cut jobs if it serves shareholders. Non-profits tend to close down before taking that step. We have stakeholder inequality. Business defines its stakeholders narrowly. We have goal inequality. Business only looks at needs that can be backed by money. This last is a crucial distinction in a country with so many poor people. The “volume of needs” not backed by money is growing out of proportion to those needs that are backed by money. The development challenge is growing faster than the market opportunity, meaning non-profits must work harder than business.

Growing development challenges. The size of the challenge depends on the number of people and the scale of their needs. South Africa’s population is increasing and some problems are deepening (e.g. AIDS orphans) as old problems create new ones. This means the volume of needs and the burden on the non-profit sector goes up. Out of poverty, illiteracy and disease rises a new round of crime, unemployment and child-headed families. We do not have statistics of the number of projects in South Africa, or of the people with needs, so we cannot know how much we are getting ahead or falling behind. We cannot be certain how big our sector is (or should be) and how well it is (or should be) doing. I have the impression that we have some wonderful NPO’s doing fantastic work. I also have the impression that our social problems are increasing. I do know that our capacity to address society’s needs depends both upon the quantity of our NPO’s and their quality. An increase in the one or the other lifts the sector, but that increase must not be any old amount, it needs to be that amount that keeps up with the increase in the social needs. Think inflation. As general prices rise, every one’s salary needs to go up or we get poorer. And if the quantity of NPO’s goes down, then the remaining NPO’s need an extra improvement to catch up. I think the quantity of NPO’s has gone down and the quality of the remainder has gone up, but I do not know if the quality has gone up enough to compensate for the loss in number and the increase in social needs. In other words, even when we get individually better, the drop in our numbers and the increase in social needs can make it seem the sector stood still or went backwards.

So what we have is an inequality in the performance of non-profits compared to business in the context of a tilted playing field and growing social needs. What a combination! We are not as good as we need to be and we look worse than we do because we have chosen the hard tasks that also happen to be skyrocketing. If this is the situation, is anyone “down” on the NPO?

I am not sure if business is that aware of the challenges that NPO’s have and face, but they need to invest in NPO’s and will continue to do so. I am sure that people in the street are sympathetic. I doubt anyone in the glasshouse of Government would throw stones at NPO performance levels. What I am not sure about is the sentiment of intermediaries. “Donors” in this country are often the intermediaries – the agencies who collect and distribute the money. They do not have money themselves. They get funding from the “real” donors and depend upon the delivery performance of the underlying NPO to justify their existence. They need that portion that flows to NPO’s to look extra good because it needs to justify all the money they get, including the portion they spent on themselves. Insecurity makes intermediaries very sensitive to home country fashions and the need to show results. Everyone wants a winner, and intermediaries cannot afford to back losers.

What does questions about performance and impact do to the sector? I think there is a real chance that foreign funds will be flowing more to Asia (not because its NPO’s are better but because its issues are sexier). Inside Africa, funds will be flowing more to government (not because government is better but because it can absorb more funding). Inside the NPO sector, funds will be flowing to the bigger NPO’s (not because they are better, they are often offer lower levels of care, but they have the better marketing). In short, if things stay the way they are, the Goliaths will win because they are better at being capitalist than the Davids.

If you like the little guys too, you may share three concerns with me. One, that nobody is keeping track of the quantity of NPO’s we have and need. I wish SANGOCO filled this space. Two, that nobody is keeping track of the quality of NPO’s we have and need. I wish the NDA filled that space. The two together could do for the NPO sector what the Reserve Bank does for the banking sector – protect the system as a whole. But they don’t and perhaps they can’t, and the result is too few NPO’s for the spectrum of needs we have and too many NPO’s that battle to keep up. Three, that we have a model of non-profit in South Africa that has problems of corporate governance and performance. This is not slating NPO’s. Our model of NPO governance is capitalist. Workers reporting to managers reporting to directors on a board comes out of the same Joint Stock Companies Act that founded the multi-national corporation. But our capitalist model for directors operates in an environment without shareholders, so boards can get stuck in-between. What we need but do not have is a progressive model of non-profit work that is also productive. In Marxist terms, we need stronger forces of production together with different relations of production. When Lisa brings technology to the NPO, we need to distinguish between a contribution to the NPO’s force of production and an attack on the NPO’s relations of production. We need role certainty and goal clarity for our forces but we don’t want inequality in our relations of production.

NPO’s need to be more productive because we have great problems to solve and limited resources. NPO’s need to protect their values because society needs a moral alternative to the market. The one type of error is people rejecting good tools of productivity because they prefer to avoid accountability and transparency or get confused between economic and market terms of production. The other type of error is people accepting bad tools of productivity because they are so close to hand. Management science in South Africa is unevenly developed and poor in places – in Marketing, in HR, in Finance, in Risk, in IT and MIS, in Strategy etc - so let the borrower beware. What we cannot do, however, is to iconify the NPO model as it currently stands. Its form is too close to capitalist standards and its performance is too far from capitalist levels. We need to either have a genuinely full alternative to the market or listen to the Lisa’s and engage with what they say. It is right to tread carefully, but it is wrong not to tread at all.

Errol Goetsch, XE4

How do you record your site visitors? Are your statistics externally audited and available for review? If not please do not keep quoting huge numbers of people as visiting the sangonet site, this is just propoganda to push a fascist pro-management agenda.

Lufuno Tendaki


Editor's Response

SANGONeT's web statistics are generated by a reputable company called Webstat. See for information about how the company validates data.

While not quite a letter to the Editor, this letter is about the Editor - sent to SANGONeT's Executive Director, David Barnard.


The May editorial is offensive. With no underlying research or statistics offered, it is at best an ill-informed speculation that support staff in the developmental sector are overpaid. The tone of the article is not acceptable. Furthermore the language of your editor can improve, the tortured phrasing of our English language detracts from the content, surely you can afford better editorial staff? (Perhaps you need to pay them more).

Letsholo Mzanzi


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