Ramphele's Citizens Movement: Where did the money go?

2013-07-07 10:00

Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele is making big promises to South African citizens, but her own NGO, the Citizens Movement, appears to be floundering after her departure for politics.

Now one of the movement’s biggest financial backers is waiting to hear what its money was used for, and whether it has funded political activity.

Last year, the movement was given more than R4 million by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSFSA).

At the time, Ramphele sat on the board of the OSFSA, and recused herself from the meeting at which the grant was awarded.

The former academic and businesswoman left the Citizens Movement at the end of last year, and in February announced her intention to step into the political arena.

But only half the grant was paid to the movement. According to OSFSA board chairperson Zyda Rylands, the remaining R2 million was cancelled due to “concerns about the organisation’s leadership challenges and inadequate programme activity”.

OSFSA now wants to know what happened to the R2 million it did hand over.

Rylands said the foundation would not approve if the money had been used for political purposes, adding that they had “received no evidence” that the money was used for anything but the organisation’s original stated purpose.

“OSFSA expects, in due course, to receive audited financial reports on this grant and on an earlier small grant of R187 000,” she said.

By the foundation’s standards, R4 million is a large one-off grant, but City Press has learnt that Ramphele was apparently unhappy with the amount.

Sidney Luckett, a former close associate of Ramphele who left the Citizens Movement in September after the two fell out, said that Ramphele “wanted R40 million”.

And money is not the only issue plaguing the movement. It is also losing senior staff, many of whom quit lucrative positions to join the organisation when Ramphele created it.

According to Luckett, staff were left stranded when Ramphele resigned and funding dried up. Among them is Eugene Daniels, who heads the movement’s education portfolio.

Daniels would not comment.

Speaking on Ramphele’s behalf, Agang spokesperson Thabo Leshilo refused to answer any questions about the Citizens Movement, saying only that Ramphele resigned from it in December.

“This was in keeping with her decision to resign all other directorships on boards of companies once she had decided to enter politics. She did so with the full blessing of those in whose capable hands she was leaving the organisation,” Leshilo said.

The movement’s CEO, Heather Sonn, resigned in February. Sonn said her role had been to build the movement’s strategy, and she resigned when she thought her job was done.

The movement was launched in a “difficult funding environment” and didn’t manage to secure big funding apart from the OSFSA grant, she said.

Sonn said the movement was a “nonpolitical platform” working with NGOs in the field of youth, education and health.

But after Ramphele started Agang, even though she had left the movement by then, prospective funders struggled to distinguish between the organisations, Sonn said.

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