Pacsa NGO closes in Pietermaritzburg due to lack of funds

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One of Pietermartizburg’s oldest human rights organisations, PACSA, has shut its doors.
One of Pietermartizburg’s oldest human rights organisations, PACSA, has shut its doors.

One of Pietermaritzburg’s oldest human rights organisations, the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), has shut its doors due to lack of funding.

Founded by local human rights campaigner Peter Kerchhoff in 1979, Pacsa has in recent years been battling to conduct its human rights work due to a lack of resources.

Sources told The Witness that the NGO initially retrenched most of its employees in a bid to stay afloat.

When the organisation’s financial situation deteriorated towards the end of last year, however, it terminated the contracts of its remaining staff, including that of director Nqabakazi Mathe.

When the situation worsened even further, Pacsa decided to close its offices in Hoosen Haffejee Street in December.

“What happened is that some of its funders pulled out and as a result the NGO found itself with no cash to pay salaries and other expenses.”
Pacsa source.

Pacsa, whose focus was on socio-economic issues, gender justice, HIV and Aids and youth development, had, in recent years, developed a reputation for its basic food basket price barometer. By measuring the price inflation of basic food items such as cabbage and mealie mealie, it was able to establish the extent to which poor households were struggling to make ends meet. The NGO would then use its findings to pressure government to come up with programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of the poor.

John Inglis, a long-serving member of the Pacsa council, would not confirm the closure of the organisation, saying he had not been authorised to speak on its behalf.

“I’m no longer on the Pacsa council and can therefore not speak on behalf of Pacsa. I will inform the council about your inquiry,” he said.

Mathe, however, confirmed that she no longer worked at the NGO. “My contract came to an end,” she said.

When The Witness dialed Pacsa’s landline the phone went unanswered.

A source familiar with Pacsa said the council was reluctant to publicly announce the organisation’s closure as it was hoping funders would still come on board.

“What happened is that some of its funders pulled out and as a result the NGO found itself with no cash to pay salaries and other expenses.

“There was also internal politics, something which made it difficult to bring funders on board,” the source said.

ALSO READ | Pacsa: Instead of labelling people we should help them.

In 2018 Pacsa’s then director, Mervyn Abrahams, left the organisation. He is currently a member of the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group, an NGO which runs its own food basket price index.

Approached for comment about Pacsa’s closure, Abrahams said: “It’s news to me.” 

In the late 80s and 90s, Pacsa played a major role in supporting the victims of political violence.

The organisation provided food, clothes and other neccesities to individuals from Endendale and Imbali, who had been displaced by political violence.

Pacsa founder Kerchhoff, who died in 1999 in a motor vehicle accident, was also a founder member of the Association of Rural Advancement (Afra).

An anti-apartheid campaigner, Kerchhoff was also a member of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

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