Friends, enemies or "frienemies": development and civil society organisations relations with the state in a Democratic South Africa
Author(s)De Wet, Jacques
KeywordsSociology & anthropology
politische Willensbildung, politische Soziologie, politische Kultur
Political Process, Elections, Political Sociology, Political Culture
Republic of South Africa
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Abstract"In 2004 the then president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki referred to a number of civil society organisations (more commonly known as non-profit organisations or NPOs) as "enemies of the ruling party" because they were publicly extremely critical of the ANC government's neoliberal policies and development strategies (Mngxitama 2004). NPOs which work in collaboration with state agencies and act as conduits for delivering services were regarded as friends of the ruling party. This discourse has prevailed within the ANC until today. However, a third category of NPOs engages with the African National Congress (ANC) government. They sometimes characterise what Mbeki called enemies and at other times they behave as friends of the ANC government. One could call them "frienemies". In this paper the discussion of NPOs is situated in the context of civil society's relations with the state in a democratic South Africa. I briefly discuss the recent history of NPOs relations with the state. I then consider why NPOs that engage with the state find it easier to be either friends or enemies with the ANC government and why the government has so few "frienemies" - despite its recognition that their dual role is valuable for development. I end the paper by briefly examining the Treatment Action Campaign and the Surplus People Project as examples of NPOs that have managed, successfully, to play the dual roles as "frienemies" of the ANC government. These examples illustrate ways in which some NPOs can manage to perform both roles, as well as the difficulties they experience in trying to balance these two roles. This paper is not suggesting that all NPOs ought to perform both roles, for that would deny the benefits that diversity among organs of civil society can bring, but it does draw attention to the advantages for development of some South African NPOs performing both these roles." (author's abstract)
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