Democracy and Governance

23 million people in South Africa live in poverty

13 million (1 in 4) are unable to afford the most basic food and needs

20% of people in South Africa own 61% of the country’s wealth

Poverty is about power. State and institutional power should be used to protect rights and create a society that gives everyone a chance to thrive. Public policy should be crafted and resources governed for the benefit of all. More efficient, transparent, responsive and accountable governance, placing the voices and interests of the most marginalized at the center is necessary for changing the situation of poverty and inequality in South Africa.

Formal democratic institutions have proved limited for ensuring that government policy fully addresses inequality. This is due to the following reasons:

  • Increase in corruption and wasteful expenditure
  • Basic and essential service provision is inadequate
  • The gap between urban and rural service provision is widening.
  • The government’s adoption of a flawed macro-economic policy

This is leading to a crisis and possible failure of constitutional democracy. Monitoring and advocating for transparent governance and encouraging alternate forms of citizen power are essential for an effective anti-poverty strategy.


Oxfam South Africa promotes a vision of a transparent and accountable government, at national and local level, capable of governing in a manner that enables people’s full participation in policy and decision-making.


Support movements and citizen power to hold government accountable to implement policies and laws for transparent fiscal management and consultative governance processes.

Key areas of work:

  • Support platforms for civil society to speak out against the failures of governance and to consider and propose solutions.
  • Understand and analyse challenges relating to the lack of rural service provision so as to advocate, build capacity and initiate campaigns to respond effectively to these challenges.
  • Deepen and support initiatives and campaigns that expose and question the  power of cooperations within communities and transparency in the operations of these entities, particularly relating to environmental degradation, land rights and tax evasion.
  • Deepen relationships and solidarities with local initiatives in communities and workplaces that propose alternative models of governance and organising for the deepening of participatory democracy and governance.
  • Ensure that all Oxfam South Africa work (both internal and with partners) promotes self-governance and self determination of communities.

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