Supporting civil society is an act of political justice

By Published On: 12th December 2017

By Stan Henkeman

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday come and gone, we are definitely well into the Festive Season. It’s that time of the year when we all seem to be in a bit of a rush; at home and at work (if we’re so lucky) we are finishing things off, closing projects and enjoying staff parties. All in preparation for the brief respite of the holiday period.

At the IJR we did quite a bit this year: The People’s State of the Nation, a Gender Indaba, working on peace processes in South Sudan, working in South African communities to foster social change, a national conference on social cohesion, setting up partnerships and networks that will amplify our impact, working with the UN, AU and SADC, to name just a few. The new South African Reconciliation Barometer will be launched on the 12th of December with some interesting data on where we are at as a nation – our perceptions of agency, responsibility for reconciliation and social cohesion, our views on religion and so much more.

We are at a point where people and communities seek us out to lend our expertise, whether in another nation, in a school here in Cape Town, whether on another continent. We, together with our fellow actors in civil society, keep the flame alive in working toward a reconciliation that is just, legally, politically and socio-economically.

South Africa’s political system, especially at this point in time with the Gupta and state capture narrative surrounding the race ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December, needs civil society voices like ours more than ever. Whether it is Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma or a dark horse candidate, the systemic and structural factors like unemployment, impoverishment and wealth inequality won’t go away. IJR, together with the rest of civil and activist society, will continue to keep government accountable and do the hard work of healing woundedness through community building.

As South Africans, we have all role to play in keeping politicians to account. Once elected, they should serve us, not the other way round. We must continue to keep reminding them and so change the power dynamic that has prevailed. We, all of us – faith organisations, civil society, community activists, the everyday South African – took our eye off the ball after 1994 when The Big Fight was won.

None of us, not one South African, can afford to make the same mistake again.

Yet, doing the work we do requires money. In an ideal world, the work needed to dismantle endemic corruption, effect policy for a real change, to advocate for inclusive economies where wealth is more evenly shared, to work for a gender just society that doesn’t burden women and genderqueer persons with NOT getting assaulted but destroys toxic masculinity, to peacebuild for the long-term in South Sudan, Zimbabwe, the DRC and Rwanda, would be done without cares about finance because these goals are unalloyed good. In an ideal world, none of this work would be needed either.

But we live in an imperfect world. Part of that imperfection is that it costs money to bring some good into it. Many civil society organisations in South Africa are financially supported by non-South African donors. While there are of course SA donors as well as foundations and trusts, we believe the time is right to begin surfacing the question of how South Africans can contribute to gender justice, socio-economic equality and deep democratic change to make reconciliation real, radical and revolutionary, as Dr Allan Boesak calls for.

In this time of goodwill and generosity, we would like to humbly request your consideration of supporting the IJR via our safe and secure online giving platform. And it doesn’t take much. R50 can buy notepads and pens for participants in a gender justice workshop. R250 ensures IJR participants in deep rural areas can stay connected through data. R1000 helps us secure venues IN communities for dialogues and peace training. R10 000 by itself can fund a community roundtable bringing together neighbourhood stakeholders on crucial matters of community healing.

We are not shy about asking for a helping hand. We know South Africans know it is our collective responsibility to heal this nation that has suffered colonialism, apartheid and, now, the unfulfilled promises of freedom and democracy.

Your giving can make a difference! Supporting civil society is an act of justice.  

To donate to the IJR please click here or go to for more information about the IJR.

Stan Henkeman is the Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

Image credit: Hand prints in multi colours. Image:

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