Altruism gains traction in SA
● Move over the Ruperts and other icons of South African philanthropy, a growing number of the black elite are wading into this territory as SA grapples with being among the most unequal societies in the world.
Wealthy families in SA, in general, continue to create philanthropic foundations despite bad news about the economy, poor state finances and political challenges.
This week the Motsepe Foundation, founded by billionaire Patrice Motsepe and his medical doctor wife Precious Moloi-Motsepe, announced a R100m fund for job creation in collaboration with faith-based organisations.
“There’s a growing interest in philanthropy among emerging black elites. Some will establish foundations but they tend to be more nonprofits where they raise other money,” said Shelagh Gastrow, editor of the first Annual Review of South African Philanthropy, which will be launched tomorrow.
“I think there’s far more awareness around what philanthropy is and the word philanthropy. Fifteen years ago this was seen as a kind of very elitist, strange, imported word but I think it’s gained currency … I think it’s something that’s gaining in importance [as part of] people’s values and what they want to achieve in life,” Gastrow said.
Unlike charitable contributions, philanthropy in SA does not receive a tax benefit.
Bhekinkosi Moyo, adjunct professor and director of the African Centre on Philanthropy and Social Investment at Wits Business School, says in the review that “acts that relieve immediate human suffering tend to be treated as charity, for example the humanitarian responses to natural disasters and emergencies, while actions to promote development are viewed as philanthropy”.
The extent of philanthropy in SA is so far anecdotal. Numerous researchers have failed to quantify the billions of rands poured into philanthropy annually and the size of the sector as many philanthropists operate under the radar.
The philanthropy sector in general experienced a shake-up during SA’s so-called wasted decade under former president Jacob Zuma, when corruption ran rampant, leading to the erosion of state finances and the capacity of state-owned companies, departments and institutions.
“You’re finding all over SA a massive growth in community-based organisations,” Gastrow said. These ranged from feeding schemes, aid to the elderly, school support and programmes to keep youth off the street. “We’re getting growth in nonprofit entities to try and deal with what is essentially government failure.” There was “huge pressure on philanthropy to fund those things”.
The flood of foreign aid typical of SA’s earlier years of democracy was dwindling as global priorities shifted to address immigration and refugee challenges in countries, such as Germany, that formerly made substantial donations to SA.
Sarah Rennie, chair of the Grindrod Family Centenary Trust and of the Independent Philanthropy Association of SA council, under whose auspices the annual review will be launched in Stellenbosch, said trends in philanthropy went beyond individuals writing a cheque to the local old age home. “There’s a sense that we’ve really got to create some kind of meaningful positive change that has a bigger momentum than just individual charitable acts.”
We’re getting a growth in nonprofit entities to try and deal with essentially government failure Shelagh Gastrow
Editor, Annual Review of South African Philanthropy