Khartoum Leadership Training – Training Week One: focus on Women from Civil Society

by Amy Eaglestone and Meleny Tembo

It was fascinating just to be in Sudan.  On top of which, the call for applications to attend the Women’s Leadership Training attracted a group of women who were all of great quality and very committed. Our decision to target second tier leadership from organisations using an age requirement worked and the participants spoke about valuing the chance to attend training. The level of English proficiency was good enough that there was no Arabic spoken by the co-facilitator during the plenary sessions, which was great and also really encouraged the participants to speak English and be confident while doing so.

The Idasa trainers worked hard to manage expectations and adjust the course content to suit the needs of the participants. The group wanted a bit more of a focus on Leadership than the course necessarily includes, and the trainers shifted things around to give them just that. However, the participants wanted to look at Leadership from a more theoretical perspective and the course focuses on Leadership in a more practical manner. In the end the practical way of doing things won and they could see how the concepts fit together. It was absolutely amazing after the third day to hear the women express how the course had altered their way of thinking about themselves, their communities, democracy, citizenship, leadership, power, understanding diversity and how they could manage these, and how they were moved from their comfort zones to the unknown and back to the known.

Continue reading

Critical remarks on investing in children: How to ensure effective and efficient investment in children and monitoring government’s investment in children

by Russell Wildeman

Input delivered at the Save the Children Regional Conference, Johannesburg, 02 November 2012asa

The customary question that is asked today is how well public spending holds up after the economic crises of 2008 and 2009 and the enduring problems faced by parts of Europe? These questions are also vital in the context of international goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes the interesting point that social spending in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) was preserved in the wake of the economic crisis that affected the developed North. This was related, in part, to the strong economic growth of the last decade and the relatively low levels of public debt of most SSA countries. However, the slowing down of the global economy and our reliance on commodity exports may introduce a series of fresh public funding challenges. Such a scenario may necessitate a strategy where SSA countries re-invest income gains into critical social services spending.

While the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa (UNECA, 2012) acknowledges the growth spurt in the last decade, it makes the point that this economic growth has not yielded commensurate dividends in poverty reduction. In fact, SSA countries are spending 8.7% on social services as a percentage of GDP and this is considered to be the lowest spending ratio in the world. There is general concern that in spite of the strong economic performance in the last decade, low investment in social development infrastructure remains. Given this scenario, many economists are now arguing that pro-poor spending, efforts at improving the quality of government spending and sound fiscal policies have become imperative in the fight against poverty.

I have invoked this context to place my input and our discussion in this broader context of economic growth that has not delivered solid social benefits. This suggests that our concerns with the rights and well-being of children should also be framed in a context that demands greater inclusiveness.

The rest of my input focuses on issues that have a direct and indirect effect on our ability to advocate for children’s rights and on governments’ ability to provide us with an unbiased account of how well they are promoting children’s rights. I interrogate the notion of budget outcomes, how national budget processes actually work, and the challenge of not having access to vital budget information. I conclude with the way forward for CSOs in promoting a children’s rights agenda by drawing attention to the effectiveness and the efficiency of spending on children.

Continue reading

Reflections on our personal mentoring sessions with NANGO, Zimbabwe on child-friendly budgets in the health sector, October 2012

by Russel Wildeman

Personal Mentoring

We have decided to adopt a rather grandiose term for the capacity development work we do, namely “personal mentoring.”

Partners in a number of Southern African countries who advocate on behalf of children present us with a number of key questions that they would like to see answered using budget analysis as the primary analytical method. Some of these questions are commonplace such as the composition of spending, how the budget process gives effect to the realisation of socio-economic rights, whether prioritisation of children’s needs does indeed happen etc. Some of the questions relate more to the advocacy goals of the organisation and we may field a request that states “can you develop an advocacy strategy to guide us in our annual interventions in the budget process?” This requires knowledge of independent budget analysis and the know-how to construct advocacy strategies. When organisations have done these analyses, often the questions are more sophisticated such as “how do we translate our child-fiendly framework into a budget analysis framework?”

Once we have received the questions, our task is to determine whether some or all of their questions can be answered using independent budget analysis. This is a laborious process because it requires an understanding of the documents that are available, partners’ access to government officials, the prevailing culture of openess in that country, whether the data in the budget are structured such that the information is useful etc. This results in conversations between us and partners so that we obtain the necessary documentation, study them carefully and come up with a proximate answer as to whether the questions are answerable.

Normally, on the first morning of the personal mentoring workshop, we use the time to establish an approach based on the availability of data and partners’ access to government data not published etc. The morning is also used to chart the way forward for the week in terms of the provisional programme, expected written outputs, we develop a draft outline of a possible budget paper, we agree on supervision and when drafts are to be read, technical sessions etc. We also establish rules around the physical availability of participants. So for example, if we do a technical session on inflation in the morning and the afternoon is reserved for writing, then partners can do such writing in the training venue, their hotel rooms, on a moving bus or wherever they feel most comfortable. Of course, we can also do shopping in our “free time.” At the start of each session in the morning, we assess where we are, the likelihood of achieving our set objectives for the week, revising objectives if necessary, and alter the pace at which we do technical sessions. We found this daily temperature-taking important and necessary in guiding us to a set of successful outcomes at the end of the long week.

This far, we have done this work with Save the Children Swaziland, NANGO in Zimbabwe and a group of organisations in Botswana. Remaining are visits to our partners in Mauritius, Lesotho and Mozambique. This will conclude the Idasa mentoring support to our partners in 2012.

One final observation is that we take a maximum of five participants so that we can keep the workshop small and intimate and to enable us to provide detailed technical and conceptual back-up support as the workshop unfolds.

Continue reading

Zuma not at the end of his presidential tether just yet, Afrobarometer suggests.

by Olmo von Meijenfeldt

With the Marikana tragedy fresh in people’s minds, the ANCYL calling for a new President and the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference looming, speculation has become rife that Jacob Zuma’s Presidency will finish at the end of his first term.

While firebrand Julius Malema seizes each and every opportunity to lambast the President, he until recently vowed to die for, and with a media ready to jump onto stories of lewd paintings and marriages, it does indeed appear that Jacob Zuma is not a very popular President. Perhaps his career as ANC President and, therefore, South Africa’s next President – a miracle in voting behaviour notwithstanding – will come to an end in Mangaung.

Recent media articles suggest that young voters are turning away from Zuma. A recent TNS survey states that Mothlante is the preferred choice for voters. What is not mentioned is that this is a survey held in urban, middle class environs. With the middle class estimated at about 20% of population according to recent calculations by the African Development Bank, the TNS survey can’t be called representative. The Pondering Panda Zuma-and-youth survey can hardly be called representative either as it collects its data via internet surveys, for which you need a computer and internet access; middle class amenities.

An Afrobarometer survey conducted by IDASA in 2011 however, interviewed a sample of 2399 adult South Africans from all nine provinces with an error margin of only 2%. The results have been bundled in several papers, one of which covers “public attitudes towards the President of the Republic of South Africa.” Although the data was collected some time ago, well before the Marikana tragedy, the outcomes should still be of interest.

In the survey Jacob Zuma garnered a 66% percent approval rating, and 63% of South Africans say they trust him somewhat or a lot.

So, it may be too early to conclude that Zuma will not be nominated party President in Mangaung. But perhaps more interestingly, how do we then understand the gap between these outcomes and the negative perceptions that seem alive amongst segments of our society?

Not only does the Afrobarometer survey indicate differences in perception between different provinces, levels of education and age groups, the survey states that “those who feel most marginalised and disaffected from society and therefore least optimistic, and who are also least likely to take part in civic activity, also feel most disaffected and dissatisfied with their government, including its current leader.”

Those dissatisfied with our current leadership “appear to come from different communities and different socio-economic strata. Indeed, more affluent South Africans seem particularly passive on … citizen engagement.” Affluent South Africans?  The elites such as business, academia, media, and more.

This may then explain why Zuma is not as unpopular as some tend to think. As a city dweller with a job, access to internet and newspapers one may be excused for thinking that Jacob Zuma is on a slippery slope to one-term-presidency. Or are these merely the opinions of a civically inactive, politically marginalised and dissatisfied elite?

Olmo von Meijenfeldt is Idasa’s External Relations Manager. This opinion piece has been written in his personal capacity.

To read the Afrobarometer paper entitled Public Attitudes Towards the President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma click on the below link.

The Draft Constitution and Me (FK Fellow blog) – Tsitsi Mhlanga

The Constitutional Reform Process continues in Zimbabwe. Working at IDASA has allowed me the unique opportunity of continuing to ensure that women have their voice heard in the Constitution even though I am living and working in South Africa. IDASA recently supported The Feminist Institute of Southern Africa (FISA) in the popularisation of a gender analysis of the COPAC Draft of the Constitution. As a young woman, it continues to be my passion that women are equipped with information that enables them to make decisions that are in their best interests. In being part of this process, I was allowed the opportunity to again be in a space where women are free to share, interact and learn. This continues to be my passion. Of the things I learnt in the process for me there are a few that I would like to share.

Continue reading

In Memoriam: Professor Neville Alexander

by Russel Wildeman, 27 August 2012


It is with sadness that I would like to note the passing of Professor Neville Alexander. A native from the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, he moved to the Western Cape and spent the best of his political, professional, social and academic life in that interesting province. He was one of the high profile activists jailed on Robben Island.  I have to state upfront that Neville and I were not friends and the occasional contact we had was around my research on education budgets.

It may sound like a tired saying but here is another great South African who is no longer among us. Neville was an intellectual and activist of the highest order and I will remember him principally for four interventions. One was his insistence during the 1980s that the popular resistance movements should resist from organising communities on a “sectarian” basis. By this he meant that issues taken up in Gugulethu (a so-called African area) must not be removed from issues taken up in Mitchells Plain (a so-called Coloured area). He was of the view that such campaigns consolidated the hold of apartheid identities and make it impossible for a broader non-racial consensus to be built.

Continue reading

Between the Lines

by Judith February, 22 August 2012


It has been a grim week.

The events at Lonmin’s Marikana mine have left a deep stain on our country. But it is not only a stain, it is also a deep wound which must be healed in some way.

It is a story of desperation and inequality; one of violence and anger. Many have been asking how we arrived at this place 18 years into democracy when our Constitution provides mechanism for dealing with conflicts and when we have solid labour laws. Yet, for the past few years there has been an alternative discourse fomenting in South Africa. It is one of protests against corruption and mismanagement at local government level. We have labelled them ‘service delivery protests’, another example of a language which seeks to portray citizens as passive recipients of government grace. Often these protests have turned violent. They simmer at the heart of South African society, eating away at our already tenuous levels of social cohesion given the persistently high levels of poverty and inequality.

In Ficksburg in 2010, Andries Tatane was shot dead by the police in one such protest, while holding up his arms in surrender. Yet, we do not seem to have learned the lessons of Tatane’s death.

But the issue goes much further than a culture of policing. To narrow Marikana down to a policing matter will ensure that we don’t answer the hard questions of the ills of our society or the unacceptable inequality which leads men to become desperate and depraved. We cannot ignore the culture of violence ingrained in our society. We have some idea of its roots and yet we are no closer to building a decent society than we were when apartheid ended.

Continue reading

FK Fellow Blog – Mandla Matuare no.2

Month number two at Idasa as an FK Fellow. So far so good. The timing couldn’t have been better. Having the opportunity to attend and be part of both the Bosberaad (Idasa’s annual strategic retreat) and Reflection Week has really given me an appreciation of the internal affairs of Idasa as an organisation and what the staff is doing in order to continue to strengthen the organisation’s position.

There are several projects that have been mentioned which are high on the Idasa to-do list and it has been good to get involved in whatever capacity I can. The National Dialogue which was held on the 25th and 26th of July in collaboration with IJR and the Club de Madrid is one of the projects I have been involved with. Director Ivor has gave me the opportunity to get involved with organising the event alongside colleague Dirkie and I managed logistics by myself on the day itself! It was a challenge but with my events management background I knew that an event is only hard during conceptualisation and planning. The event went rather well despite some high level cancellations at the last minute.

Also my recent trip to my home country (Zimbabwe) was interesting as part of the Afrobarometer training for field workers there prior to their deployment to various parts of the country to administer the questionnaire and obtain feedback on the views of the people regarding governance and democracy. It was good to see friends and family as well as see first-hand how people are interviewed and how respondents react to the various topics in the questionnaire itself.

It was sad to discover that so much effort is spent every year on the CRM system that is rarely used. I am very much into technology and efficient sharing of information and the fact that this system is not being used to its potential is disappointing. Fair and fine; not all the people who have access to the system are comfortable with it but, two ideas come to mind: Familiarisation with the system tutoroial by consulting the administrators and secondly by delegating some of the more complex uploading, posting, updating tasks to other project members who may be more comfortable with system.

FK Fellow Blog – Tsitsi Mhlanga, Zimbabwe

I’m not sure what I was expecting, I just know I feel I’ve been here forever. The environment and people at IDASA made it relatively easy to settle in and I feel right at home.

We were also lucky enough to get here just before the staff day at the park and I think this helped me feel more comfortable around everyone after interacting with them over some wors and cricket. I still believe that our team, “TEAM NASHLEY” was the winning team.

I was initially worried about being treated like an intern with no experience and thus being relegated to doing menial tasks. That should have been the least of my troubles. I initially decided to take up this fellowship, because my mind was feeling like it was no longer being stretched and challenged. So far in this first month I have been feeling challenged. I’ve been involved in some interesting work and loving it.

So a month down the line, I’m not missing my work at home at all and am feeling very much like part of the IDASA family.

FK Fellow Blog – Mandla Matuare, Zimbabwe

The good thing about my fellowship being in South Africa was that it is familar ground. I studied and lived in Cape Town for a combination in 6 years so even though i hadn’t been to Pretoria in a while, i had a good idea of what to expect when i got here.

It has been a busy month. From the 15th of May when i arrived up to now. It didnt take too long to get settled in and familiarise myself with the surroundings, transport routes etc. Getting to meet the staff at Idasa was assisted by the ‘Bosberaad’ (or strategic planning week) as well as ‘the day in the park’ that helped us get to know people much more quickly.

Getting introduced to project managers and other key members of staff is what then began the process of getting involved in work and seeing where best i could fit in and make worthwhile contributions. It has been good to get involved in different areas of the organisation and the learning never ends.

I look forward to the next few months and gaining positively from my fellowship.