NGO’s Need Cash Donations To Survive

Do you ever give donations to charitable organisations; orphanages, places of worship, animal sanctuaries, community safety organisations, education initiatives, anti-corruption groups – that kind of thing?

If you do, then you make up a small but vital part of the pool of over 80% of South Africans who give generously in support of these critical efforts. I say without fear of contradiction that this country would be in dire straits if it weren’t for our NGO’s. We have literally tens of thousands of non-profit organisations doing truly superb work with very little support except that which you and I (or our companies) might give to them. My wife and I have run an NGO for many years now. We start and administer homes for abandoned and orphaned babies and we have teams who work for us. Some of these homes now operate under the auspices of their own NGO’s, which is brilliant. Others – like the Baby Home in Durban North, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Hammarsdale Child Care Centre run under our NGO. All our advocacy work and other projects involves orphans and vulnerable children along with the creation of the kind of South Africa we all wish to live in. We are a very small NGO in the bigger picture, but last time I checked it cost us about R140k a month to operate. This is mostly taken up by rent and salaries (carers, house-parents and management – i.e. us. We employ 13 people in total). We are scrupulously honest, even going to the extent of publishing our annual report and financials on our website. However, many very generous people and organisations are unwilling to give monetary donations preferring to donate consumables; nappies, formula, medicines etc. Some like to give hardware – cots, blankets, clothes. Others like to dump their old rubbish on us but that’s for another time. Now, please don’t get me wrong. We are hugely grateful for all the (non-manky) consumables and hardware we get given. We depend on this. But we also – like every other NGO in operation – rely on money to operate. We must pay a qualified person to mix that formula up and feed it to a baby, change her nappy and lull her to sleep. It doesn’t just happen. And we choose to pay our carers and house mothers above the going rate. It is a priority of our NGO to pay poverty-busting salaries and give 13th cheques and significant increases. How else will we play our part in addressing inequality? And this brings me to my final point. NGO staff and management should ultimately be paid according to their education and years of experience – not according to the fact that they work in a non-profit organisation. NGO employees should be paid like their counterparts in for-profit companies. Yes, we are very passionate – but passion does not pay the rent. Now, we acknowledge that we cannot pay these kinds of salaries because we do not have a culture of deep respect for NGO’s that allows this to happen. For my part I have always relied on multiple sources of income for me and my family. All this humble NGOér requests is that you put aside past experiences where your generosity may have been abused and know that NGO’s need hard cash donations to survive. Our promise is that we will steward those funds wisely and carefully and we will always be accountable to you the donor. Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency.  His writing is dedicated to the memory of Anene Booysens, Emmanuel Josias Sithole and Suna Venter

It’s Time – Adding Action to Faith

There has been a great deal written about Angus Buchan’s recent mega prayer faith gathering near Bloemfontein entitled “It’s Time” and I don’t intend to add to the commentary on the event itself. However, it came about in a week in which an extraordinary video from a US church exploded on social media.

The video sees a middle-aged, white evangelical church pastor asking a young black man onto stage during a sermon. He gently invites the young man to take a seat and asks him to remove his shoes and socks. The pastor then recalls Donald Trump’s election campaign strapline “Make America Great Again” and asks the congregation to consider who America has ever been great for? Certainly not, he says, native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans like this young man, Asians or any other minority group for that matter. America, he says in a brutally factual and disarmingly humble manner, has been truly great for only one group of people; one race; his race. The white race. In that same week, another church man – this time a local lay preacher and writer by the name of Lorenzo A Davids – penned a less widely circulated but no less powerful article in which he asked some equally probing questions as the US pastor had in his video: If “It’s Time” as Brother Angus tells us it is, then what is it time for? And why is now the time? In the context of his vast audience being mostly white, why was it not time when Madiba died or when Anene Booysens was brutally murdered or, I would add, when Chris Hani was assassinated? What makes now so unique as to see hundreds of thousands of people gather to pray in faith? Is it simply another way of articulating and embodying the Trump rallying cry; “Make South Africa great again.”? And if this is the case, then who are we really praying for it to be great again for? Because it was never great for too many people other than one race; my race; the white race. Now, you may say that there were also non-white people at the Angus Buchan prayer gathering and that the spirit between races was loving, brotherly, embracing – even healing in its nature. I have heard superb stories of what happened at that event. This is all good and I do not wish for one moment to belittle anything of what took place there. However, it is not enough by a long way. We must add to our faith – whatever faith that may be – works that will actively arrest the decline of our nation but also radically transform it and bring restitution. What does this look like? What must we do? What is it time for? I believe that what the American evangelical pastor does next provides us with the answer, but before going there, let me borrow again from Lorenzo A Davids who speaks profoundly about what he terms the Zacchaeus Moment. When he meets Jesus and has a revelation about the many he has wronged, the legendary criminal tax collector Zacchaeus – the small guy who had to climb up a fig tree to see Jesus – repents. This is not just a simple matter of saying sorry, although I am certain he did this. As part of his repentance he gives half of his possessions to the poor and to those he cheated out of money, he returns 4 times the amount he had taken. Put another way, his repentance included significant restitution. He added to his faith, action. It was only then that Jesus declared salvation over Zacchaeus’ house. It is this salvation that Brother Angus is praying for. As he continues to speak, the white pastor gets down on all fours in front of the young black man. He looks him in the eyes and he speaks with such tenderness as he takes his feet gently in his hands and begins to wash them. A young black man. An older white man.  He tells the youngster that he cares about him; that he is valuable to him; that he is not inferior to him despite what history would tell him. They are brothers even though their contexts are so different. He holds his feet with such care. He gets down as low as he can; as close to the young man’s feet as he is able. He massages his feet, each one in turn – slowly. Tears fall down the young man’s face as the pastor slowly dries the young man’s feet, embraces him and tells him he loves him. This is not American theatrics. This is what leaders like Christ and more recently Pope Francis model in terms of a start point for healing and restitution. For Francis, he washes feet whenever he can; Christians, non-Christians, men, women, refugees, prison inmates you name it. He actively eschews his position as the leader of millions; he makes himself accountable for the wrongs of others; he humbles himself by getting down as low as he can to take broken and dirty feet into his hands and wash and sometimes even kiss them. It’s time. Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency.  His writing is dedicated to the memory of Anene Booysens and Emmanuel Josias Sithole.

Ford Under Fire

An open letter to the executives of Ford South Africa regarding the handling of the Ford Kuga crisis:

Over the past months, several of your customers (allegedly around 50) have watched in horror as their vehicles exploded around or in front of them. Having spent hundreds of thousands of Rand on what for many would have been their dream motor vehicle, they have stood helplessly by as their car went up in smoke. One person – a 33-year-old man by the name of Reshall Jimmy – lost his life in a most horrendous and painful fashion; trapped in a burning Kuga. Despite all of this, it has taken you well over a year to recall the effected model. Month after month you chose to argue the ‘technical details’ of the fires. You simply failed to take responsibility. Like many, I am disgusted by your too-little-too-late response; even the tone you employed in announcing the recall was cold and unfeeling. Your callous disregard for human beings; their lives, their families and their hard-earned money (apparently, Kuga owners cannot give them away), is utterly sickening. For a brand with your proud history you have let yourself down in the most spectacular fashion. Your response says only one thing: Ford cares more about the bottom-line than about the safety and well-being of their customers. I am no MBA, but even I can tell you that this is an appalling business strategy that will have disastrous consequences for sales of all models not just Kugas. By way of example, my wife and I have been toying with buying a Ford Eco Sport. Let me be clear: after your response to the Kuga crisis we will never buy a Ford of any description. Regardless of what “the facts” of the Kuga case turn out to be, you are – in our minds at least – a company that is untrustworthy and uncaring. What should you have done in this case? Firstly, you should have taken a decision to operate with compassion above all else. How could you have done this? By putting yourselves in the skin of Reshall Jimmy’s family. You could have asked yourselves what it must feel like to be them or the 50 other effected parties or the approximately 6300 other Kuga owners. If you were battling with this, you could have employed a trained counsellor or facilitator to take you through a process whereby you would devise a business strategy based on a foundation of compassion. (Your business brains would love this bit: operate with compassion and you will save the floundering reputation of your business. This is because the “little people” love to see large corporations operating with compassion and humility.) Secondly, you should have said you were sorry; immediately and then repeated it often. Sorry is a very powerful word that many people long to hear when they are suffering. Even if you later turn out to be “right”, you should have said sorry.   Then, you should have quickly recalled all the models in the affected category even if that meant that Ford suffered badly. Lives are more important than profits and jobs. The thing that is so deeply troubling about your response is how eerily South African it is. Your cars explode so you immediately go on the defensive and argue that the customer must be wrong. No one quickly takes full and total responsibility, says sorry, recalls, resigns. By the same token, our country’s good health and reputation burns and our president argues that it’s the media’s fault or the courts fault or the Public Protectors fault or the work of foreign agents. The people speak at the polls and again, it is not his fault.  It is never his fault; never the fault of his executive.  No one loses their job or takes a salary cut. Business just carries on as usual.  Failed ministers continue to lead; failed rugby coaches continue to coach; failed teachers continue to teach; failed principals continue to lead schools. Exceptions to the rule – the Pallo Jordan’s and Brian Molefe’s of this world – are few and far between. Take heed Ford South Africa; take heed of what happened to the ruling party in last year’s local government elections. This was caused by arrogance, selfishness and a lack of compassion for their customers – the citizens of South Africa. Your response to the Kuga crisis mirrors this and the same large-scale erosion of support will happen to you.   Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency.  This column is dedicated to the memory of 17-year-old Anene Booysens: gang raped, mutilated and murdered, and our Mozambican brother Emmanuel Josias Sithole: beaten and stabbed to death.

How history will remember the man who insists on being President

In August 2014 highly respected ANC veteran Pallo Jordan found himself in hot water over lies regarding his academic qualifications. He had claimed to have a PhD going by the title of Doctor for years. Via an article in the Mail & Guardian, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe explained that Jordan had written to the party’s leadership taking full responsibility for what Jordan termed as “deceit over a long time”. Jordan apologised to the ANC, its members and all South Africans and resigned. There are moments in all of our lives that come to define us as men and women. For leaders with position and power, these moments may go down in the annals of history. For leaders like you and I they may simply become part of the history of our own small lives, or be forever etched in the minds of our children: “My Dad was always someone who did the right thing”; “My Mum played fast and loose with the law.” The story of Pallo Jordan’s deceit did not end with an apology to South Africans. That is because Pallo Jordan is a man of integrity. How can we possibly say that about a man who lied and cheated his way through decades of his life, receiving benefits that he should never have been entitled to? Well, we can say that because when confronted with that dreadful moment of truth about his lie (a variation of a lie that many of us have spoken in our lives to make ourselves or our companies sound more impressive), he chose to admit his mistakes and resign. With only the evidence provided by his conscience and a Sunday Times expose; without any pronouncements of a court of law – he did the hardest thing possible; he took responsibility and action. His apology would have meant nothing had he not resigned; his apology would simply have been a request for us to let him off the hook: “You have been a naughty boy Pallo, but we forgive you. Just don’t do it again.” My primary memory of Pallo Jordan is not that he lied about his qualifications. I remember him for the fact that he resigned as a result of being exposed. I remember how quickly, how decisively and how humbly he did it. I remember how he saw fit to respect South Africans and our democracy by doing what only the strongest of men and women and the best of leaders can ever do – kick themselves when they are down. Regardless of the fact that he would lose money, face and power he did what I have come to understand any true veteran of the struggle would do; he stood up bravely against anyone who dared to compromise the integrity of that struggle and the democracy that resulted – even when that person was him. I do not need to spell things out and in any case, much has been written about the man who still insists on calling himself our President. Suffice to say that whether you love him or hate him, this man will now be relegated to the trash-heap of history occupied by corrupt leaders; those who lied, cheated, deceived, manipulated and put themselves before the people. But he will not simply idle away his final years in ignominy for Nkandla or the fact that he violated his oath of office or any of the other atrocities committed by him. Ultimately, this will happen because he apologised without resigning. Had he resigned on Saturday night he may in years to come have even been honoured for some of his not insignificant achievements as President of the Republic. But now, history will only ever remember him for being a man who – when presented with that moment – chose to apologise but not resign. He will be remembered for the fact that he not only placed his needs before the party or his people, but before the constitution of the Republic. And this is what stalwarts, elders and civil society leaders are now protesting over. They have nothing to lose from standing against the systematic destruction of this mighty organisation. They know that a weak ANC is bad for everyone and they will not look on as Rome burns. What the man who insists on calling himself our President – and the entire ANC – has missed is that this has gone beyond politics and a scrutinising of the letter of the law. This now sets in motion the ANC’s slide downwards to the trash-heap occupied by corrupt liberation movements; those who lied, cheated, deceived, manipulated and put themselves before the people. What a tragic trajectory. Is it too late for redemption for either him or the ANC? I do not believe so. Provided this once proud organisation is able to liberate itself from its own propaganda and make itself accountable to you and I by speaking truth to power, then anything is possible. Pallo Jordan proved that people are very forgiving when the right thing is done. Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency. This column is dedicated to the memory of 17-year-old Anene Booysens: gang raped, mutilated and murdered, and our Mozambican brother Emmanuel Josias Sithole: beaten and stabbed to death.

2016 – #DemocracyMustRise

The rain fell not in drops but in great sheets; sheets of water blown sideways by a wind that howled down the valley. It drenched the land and it drenched the people. It ran in riverbeds dry from months – years – of drought, and it made rivers where none had been before. It was like the heavens had opened in answer to the millions of prayers for relief. And it was good. 88mm in an hour good. That same week the South African currency fell not in Cents but in Rands. It tumbled like the hailstones that accompanied the gushes of good falling from the open heavens. And it just kept falling as if it were on some kind of kid’s joyride. But no one was having any fun. We were bewildered and shell-shocked; struggling to make sense of what appeared to be a willful act of sabotage on our country. But then – as if in answer to more prayers for relief – David van Rooyen fell. Like the rain the previous day this brought great whoops of joy; relief to the scorched earth. And immediately, the party was over for the free-falling currency. Some said the rise of Pravin Gordhan was a case of too-little-too-late. Most breathed a sigh of relief. Was it too early to say the drought was over? Not for South African rugby. Most agreed that the fall of Heyneke Meyer preceded by the fans cries of #MeyerMustFall was long overdue especially after the Springbok’s humiliating downing by Japan at the Rugby World Cup in England. Many thought Meyer should have fallen much earlier – a case of too-little-too-late? Most breathed a sigh of relief. The dream of an end to the Springbok victory drought was born. And they sat-in and they rose-up and they marched and waved banners and they bopped and weaved their way all the way to parliament and all the way to another successful student revolution. For those of us who remember it felt dangerous but necessary; like it could turn into another 1976 only this time with a hashtag and a more representative cohort of South African students. #feesmustfall was born. And our political leaders needed a collective change of underwear and the rain fell for the students and for democracy. All races, religions and classes stood should-to-shoulder; in fact they sat for hours, days, weeks in protest against institutional racism at the University of Cape Town. They called for transformation and they made Rhodes the symbol of the movement. The #RhodesMustFall was born. This time the iconic statue of Cecil John Rhodes came down and in its place rose hope; hope for a future that would see racism fall and student leaders rise to challenge the system and the government of the day. Many asked where these youngsters had been for 21 years. Most applauded their campaign. And #ZumaMustFall was born. The doubt had always been there but for many millions of South Africans the benefit had ended. Social media erupted and marches were organised. The stream that had begun to flow from UCT some 10 months earlier had grown into a river that was now rushing straight into the corridors of power. And of all the #campaigns in 2015 this is the one that is certain to succeed. It is simply a matter of time. And in it all democracy rises and rises and rises yet again. That is what has made this a great year. It is not that we haven’t been battered, beaten and bruised. It is not that we haven’t been taken to breaking point. It has been a grinding year in which we have lost many battles. But as we approach its end we can say that every time the people have found their voice; every time citizens have rallied together, change has occurred; democracy has been victorious. Once again we hear the voices of those who believe South Africa is doomed to ‘go the way of Zimbabwe’. This is utter bollocks! Democracy has never been healthier or more vibrant than it is currently. We only need to look at the few examples I have given above to realise that the people are more powerful than at any other time in the life of our young democracy. We must remind ourselves that challenges to democracy do not constitute its failure. It is only when those challenges succeed that democracy is weakened. It is up to us citizens to ensure that this never happens. We must redouble our efforts and we must continue to use all means at our disposal to tackle every challenge that we are faced with; take to the streets, take to social media, write to the editor and whatever you do – vote in next year’s Local Government elections. It is up to us ensure that 2016 is another year in which the rain fell and democracy rose. #DemocracyMustRise. Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency. This column is dedicated to the memory of 17 year old Anene Booysens: gang raped, mutilated and murdered, and our Mozambican brother Emmanuel Josias Sithole: beaten and stabbed to death.