In June, South Africa held its second democratic national elections and the ANC won with 65.7% of the national vote. Thabo Mbeki was sworn in as President, and Jacob Zuma as Deputy President. In May, the ANC signed a peace pact with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) following years of violence and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal. The OSF-SA Board visited KwaZulu-Natal to assess the impact of political violence on its education funding initiatives.

In September, President Mbeki established the Directorate of Special Operations (also, DSO or Scorpions), which was an independent multidisciplinary agency that investigated and prosecuted organised crime and corruption. It was a unit of the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa. Its staff of 536 consisted of some of the best prosecutors and police as well as financial, forensic and intelligence experts in the country (it was officially disbanded late in January 2009).

In what is now known as the ‘Arms Deal’, the Strategic Defence Package was a multibillion-rand military acquisition project finalised by the South African Government in 1999. The acquisition was meant to modernise the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) existing equipment. The total amount of money invested was R30 billion (or R70 billion if the costs of financing the deal are taken into account). The deals entered into would emerge as a key part of civil society’s investigation into state corruption in strategic defence procurement initiatives.

Prof. Mike Savage stepped down as Executive Director and was invited to serve on the Board of OSF-SA. The then deputy director, Ms Zohra Dawood, succeeded him.

OSF-SA hosted the first community radio festival in November 1999 and produced a Curriculum for Training Community Radio Station Managers. OSF-SA also broadened its support to include grants for promoting media freedom and diversity and for monitoring content.

The SMME Programme supported the establishment of business incubators that provided assistance to SMMEs.

OSF-SA started a Rural Development Programme, to support development and business opportunity efforts in the Eastern Cape, Northern Province, and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Youth Programme funded organisations working on access to education, employment, and training focusing on ‘youth at risk’. OSF-SA continued its partnership with the Department of Education’s Kgatelopele Project.

President Nelson Mandela delivered the fifth Open Society Lecture at the University of the Western Cape. He said:

“…an essential ingredient of that kind of democratic and open society to which our constitution refers, is a constant vigilance on the part of all to ensure that practice does not erode good intention… The practice of criticism is not only functionally necessary for the maintenance of an open society but is an expression of an open society.”

1999 grants: 160