Fact Sheets2018-11-22T23:28:16+00:00

Open Society Foundation for South Africa Fact Sheet 2017

Discover nine facts about OSF-SA grant-making in South Africa over the last 25 years.

Over the years, groups partly funded by the Foundation have taken a leading role in efforts to realise the rights promised by South Africa’s progressive constitution—including the right to education, healthcare and housing. Today, many of the projects and organisations the Foundation supports focus on protecting the constitutional rights of marginalised groups including refugees, sex workers and LGBT communities—and on promoting transparency and accountability in the state and private sector. Since its earliest days, the Foundation has also strongly supported efforts to give all South Africans equal access to the protections of the law.

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OSF-SA Fact Sheet 2017

The Open Society Foundations and George Soros

Learn about The Open Society Foundations and their founder, George Soros.

The Open Society Foundations were founded by George Soros, one of the world’s foremost philanthropists, who since 1984 has given away $32 billion of a personal fortune made in the financial markets.

Open Society has supported individuals and organizations across the globe fighting for freedom of expression, transparency, accountable government, and for societies that promote justice and equality. This giving has often focused on those who face discrimination purely for who they are, such as Europe’s Roma people, and others pushed to the margins of mainstream society.

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Osf factsheet

The Story of the Open Society Foundations

Learn about The Open Society Foundations and the 25 years of grant making in South Africa.

From 1979 through the early 1980s, George provided financial support to approximately 80 black students to study at the University of Cape Town (UCT) through the Karl Popper Bursaries/Open Society Fund, with the support of the then Vice-Chancellor, Dr Stuart Saunders.

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Celebrating 25 Years - Our Story in 25 Facts OSF-SA

The Story of the Open Society Foundations …

The following list is drawn from a set of intensive interviews and desk top research carried out by Halima Mahomed and Allan Moolman, independent evaluation consultants, as part of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa’s (OSF-SA) turning 25 commemorative activities. The complete evaluation report will be released in stand-alone sections from January 2019 and reflects on OSF-SA’s critical contribution to the strengthening of South Africa’s democracy over the past 25 years.

The Early Years

The Early Years

Nov 16

1. George Soros’ first philanthropic endeavour took place in South Africa.

From 1979 through the early 1980s, George provided financial support to approximately 80 black students to study at the University of Cape Town (UCT) through the Karl Popper Bursaries / Open Society Fund, with the support of the then Vice Chancellor, Dr Stuart Saunders.

Nov 16

2. Between 1983 and 1993, George Soros supported the Black Sash Trust.

Funds were issued through the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Fund for Free Expression headed at the time by Aryeh Neier (now Emeritus President of OSF) which supported work that challenged the oppressive apartheid era pass laws that precluded black people from entering areas classified as ‘white only’, in South Africa.

Nov 16

3. In the 1980s, Herb and Joy Kaiser founded Medical Education for South African Blacks (MESAB).

The Kaisers recognised the need to support the development of cadre of black medical professionals to serve the majority of people who were denied access to quality health care because of their race. Dr Nthato Mothlana, a prominent South African physician, assisted in taking the initiative forward.

Nov 16

4. In 1987, Dr Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert and Dr Alex Boraine approached George Soros.

In 1987, Dr Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert and Dr Alex Boraine approached George Soros with a request to fund one of several talks between the African National Congress (ANC), and business and political leaders from South Africa.

Nov 16

5. In the early 1990s, George Soros provided financial support for the training of young black journalists.

In the early 1990s, George Soros provided financial support for the training of young black journalists at the then Weekly Mail Newspaper.

Nov 16

6. Dr Alex Boraine was one of OSF-SA’s first Board members and worked at the Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa.

At the suggestion of Aryeh Neier, then President of OSF, he visited other countries that were undertaking post conflict reconciliation processes at the time.

Building an Open Society Through Government Partnership

Building an Open Society through government partnership

Nov 16

7. George Soros started the National Urban Reconstruction and Housing Agency.

In 1995, George, with the support of Herb Sturz, Dr Van Zyl Slabbert, Cedric de Beer, Khehla Shubane, and others, through discussions with President Nelson Mandela, started the National Urban Reconstruction and Housing Agency (NURCHA).

Nov 16

8. OSF and Vera Institute helped establish the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

OSF together with the Vera Institute helped to establish the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). In 1997, OSF and the Ministry of Justice had discussions on introducing a criminal justice programme in South Africa. The project was located in the Ministry of Justice and provided direct and technical support to..Learn more

Nov 16

9. OSF supported the establishment of the first Thuthuzela Care Centre.

In 2000, OSF-SA provided a grant to the BJA, which with the South African government, supported the establishment of the very first Thuthuzela Care Centre, located in Manenberg Cape Town.

Nov 16

10. OSF-SA worked on a range of partnerships to protect the human rights of all survivors of crime and accused persons.

In partnership with the Department of Correctional Services and Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, OSF-SA worked on a range of partnerships to protect the human rights of all survivors of crime and accused persons, monitor the implementation of the Correctional Services Act, support offender rehabilitation and community reintegration programmes.

Promoting Expression and Accountability

Promoting Expression and Accountability

Nov 16

11. OSF-SA provided extensive support to expand the Community Radio sector in South Africa.

OSF-SA provided extensive support to expand the Community Radio sector in South Africa, by supporting over 60 community radio stations between the period 1994 and 2003 to expand information access to millions of households across the country.

Nov 16

12. When the South African Government proposed introducing the Protection of Information Bill.

When the South African Government proposed introducing the Protection of Information Bill (commonly called the Secrecy Bill) in 2011 in partnership with the Open Society Justice Initiative, OSF-SA supported the launch of the Right2Know Campaign – now a coalition of thousands of individuals and at least 400 civil society organisations..Learn more

Nov 16

13. In 2013, OSF-SA partnered with the Mail & Guardian Newspaper.

In 2013, OSF-SA partnered with the Mail & Guardian Newspaper to set up new in-house Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) – to develop investigative journalism work that was rooted in the public interest.

Nov 16

14. OSF set up a special 10 year fund to advance constitutionalism in South Africa

In 2014, OSF with Atlantic Philanthropies and the Ford Foundation set up a special 10 year fund to advance constitutionalism in South Africa. The Constitutionalism Fund focuses on providing multi-year core and specialist support to organisations in civil society, through selection by a Local Panel, headed by Justice Yvonne Mokgoro.

Nov 16

15. OSF supported organisations to uncover injustices committed by apartheid government.

Since 2014, OSF-SA has supported organisations that aim to uncover injustices committed by the apartheid government and the private sector in South Africa to hold all forms of power to account.

Nov 16

16. OSF established the South African Media Innovation Programme (SAMIP).

In 2017, the Open Society Foundations in partnership with Omidyar Network and the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) established the South African Media Innovation Program (SAMIP).

Nov 16

17. OSF-SA has long supported the use of film to communicate public information.

OSF-SA has long supported the use of film to communicate public information and to promote openness and accountability. This includes screening documentaries banned by the state broadcaster about Presidents, Marikana and other events in post-apartheid South Africa in local communities.

Fostering Democracy’s Role in Holding Accountability

Fostering participatory democracy as a tool for accountability

Jan 23

18. In 2013, through OSF-SA support, social audits commenced in earnest in South Africa.

In 2013, through OSF-SA support, social audits commenced in earnest in South Africa – adapting methodologies developed by organisations and governments in places such as India, Kenya and the Philippines. After nearly two years, the first South African Social Auditing Network (SAN) was formed in 2015.

Nov 16

19. Since 2015 OSF-SA has supported work around extractive transparency and accountability.

Since 2015 OSF-SA has supported work around extractive transparency and accountability through high agency work and provided support for community led organisations in mine affected communities, working to uphold their land and environmental rights, including for advocacy campaigns on the ‘right to say no’ to mining in their communities.

Nov 16

20. OSF-SA has promoted voter education and voter participation since 1998.

In the early 2000s, OSF-SA allocated funds for specialised non-partisan based general voter education programmes including support for coalitions of NGOs, community radio coverage of elections, and producing voter education guides and handbooks.

Nov 16

21. OSF-SA provided funding for two experimental free Wi-Fi zones in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.

In 2014, OSF-SA provided funding for two experimental free Wi-Fi zones in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha taxi ranks through Project Isizwe, as a pilot campaign for the state to rollout free and universal broadband internet services, across the country, particularly in poor and neglected communities.

Deepening Rights And Access To Community Justice Services, Particularly For Marginalised Groups

Deepening rights and access to community justice services, particularly for marginalised groups

Nov 16

22. OSF continues to support organisations promoting human rights.

OSF-SA over the years has provided support to and continues to support organisations promoting human rights especially for LGBTI persons, women, sex workers, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, people living with HIV and AIDS. and children living in South Africa.

Nov 16

23. Deepening rights and access to community justice services.

Deepening rights and access to community justice services, particularly for marginalised groups. The Open Society Foundations has supported the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa since 1999, to date.

Nov 16

24. OSF developed new work to expand political and legal empowerment.

In line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which recognises access to justice as a component of development, OSF developed new work to expand political and legal empowerment

Nov 16

25. OSF-SA has in the last few years supported grantees and a new national coalition.

OSF-SA has in the last few years supported grantees and a new national coalition that provides free advice and legal support.

Since 1993, OSF-SA has contributed over R 1 billion, to over 700 different organisations and projects in South Africa. In 2018, we celebrate 25 years of grant making with the award of a commemorative set of Scholarships and Fellowships, issued to 25 young, black, outstanding individuals who will be part of South Africa’s impressive set of next generation leaders.