The South African CSI Industry is Dominated By White Monopoly Capital: Funded and Fuelled by Black CSI Managers

How much do you want to bet? Based on what I’ve seen, a large portion of funds for Corporate Social Investment (CSI) in South Africa, around 90%, seems to go to white companies and individuals. If we were to study how the estimated R10.8 billion rand CSI budget is allocated, I’m confident that 90% goes to white companies and boards. Even if it’s not exactly 90%, it would still likely be around 78%.

Unfortunately, the remaining 10% that goes to blacks is often affected by corruption, causing black businesses to go unpaid and conflicts among black companies and CSI Managers. Even those who do receive payment often face delays of up to a year.

A well-known white woman once had a conversation with me and acknowledged that the industry is mostly white, with the top four influential individuals being white. I won’t say much more, but I encourage you to research the four largest CSI companies in South Africa and share your findings with me. It’s disappointing to see that after 30 years of black CSI Managers being in charge, there is no significant black-owned company that they can proudly say they built. It seems like they are not doing much to improve the situation.

I want to make it clear that my statements are not about race, but about fairness. The industry needs to be balanced and currently lacks impartiality, disregarding the real needs of our communities. It urgently needs radical transformation.

Recently, I had a conversation with a black stakeholder management executive who revealed concerning issues about the implementation and impact of CSI. It became apparent that this executive had brought in a white company in the past three years, which surprised me. When I mentioned this, she angrily hung up the phone.

What I should mention is that she seemed more interested in the properties and land that they acquired for themselves and the board they serve on. They are managing R45 million for a South African NGO owned by an elderly white man who lives in the UK who promised her that when he passes away, the South African board could divide the shares. Even though the old man has children. Honestly, it sounds like something out of a movie.

Now, let me explain why I’m writing this. Recently, 17 people died in shacks in Boksburg or Benoni, and it seems like CSI South Africa is oblivious to this fact. It undermines our work when people in desperate situations are not given any hope. Just a month or two ago, black Zulu men expressed their grievances about the conditions in their hostels here in Johannesburg. What more needs to be said? The purpose of CSI is to improve lives, but it seems like some people are more concerned about their luxuries while others suffer and die.

I have tried to stay silent and endure this torment, but I can’t anymore. How can people be so indifferent to reality? Something is seriously wrong, and I refuse to passively watch this disaster. If you wish to observe torture, simply visit LinkedIn. It has become a vainglorious platform where people flaunt their fake poses with children they do not know (who will likely go hungry tomorrow) and express gratitude to a God they don’t even know for what they consider a wonderful day or a good job. My goodness – what a shame.

Now, let’s talk about what we should be doing. Listen to this: Morocco, Kenya, Ghana, and even Rwanda have successfully reduced their youth unemployment rates in the past decade. It’s a remarkable achievement that shows progress is possible, even in countries with limited resources.

But when you discuss real change with South African CSI Managers, they don’t seem capable of making any meaningful changes. They can’t even upgrade the toilet paper in their offices, so what other changes can they make? They have failed to provide opportunities for our youth, leading to high levels of unemployment and frustration. This is a tragedy that needs to stop. I urge our leaders to wake up and take action. We must create jobs and opportunities for our youth; otherwise, we will face severe consequences in the future. If you’re a CSI Manager reading this and you’re angry, that’s good. I’m writing this for and to you.

The current state of CSI in South Africa is like the old fable of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” where advisers fooled an emperor into thinking he wore a magnificent garment that was invisible to the unintelligent. In the realm of CSI, there are individuals in influential positions who are supposed to uplift the people but seem unaware of the real needs of the nation. They believe they are doing something amazing, but they are just fooling themselves. And suddenly, a child says, “the emperor is naked.”

While we should acknowledge the few dedicated CSI managers who are truly making a positive impact, most of them are just going through the motions without bringing about meaningful change. They focus on small programs and projects that do little to address the pressing concerns of the people. It’s unbelievable how they fund initiatives and scholarships for only 20 entrepreneurs while the country is dealing with homelessness, inequality, and inadequate sanitation facilities.

One of the most basic needs according to Maslow’s hierarchy is shelter. Without a secure and comfortable home, people can’t effectively pursue other aspects of their lives. CSI efforts should prioritize providing housing for the millions of South Africans living in dire conditions. Instead of investing billions of rand in smaller projects, the focus should be on building homes and ensuring access to necessities like food, water, and electricity.

A major problem contributing to the misallocation of resources is the disconnect between CSI managers and the realities faced by the beneficiaries. For example, a scholarship recipient had to drop out of school because they couldn’t afford transportation. Many CSI managers fail to understand the challenges faced by those in impoverished conditions because they see the world through their own privileged lens. This lack of understanding leads to funding efforts that don’t address the core issues affecting marginalized communities. It’s not sensible to give money to a white company to work in a black community.

Another concerning trend among CSI managers, especially those of African descent, is their focus on board reports and how they present themselves to the board, rather than prioritizing the community’s well-being. The community becomes an afterthought instead of the primary concern. These managers often struggle with basic tasks in their offices but hold significant positions in organizations. In my opinion, managers who fear the board should reconsider their roles and resign if they hinder progress. In rugby terms, it’s important to recognize when your presence is detrimental to the team .

Transformation within the CSI industry is another critical area that needs attention. Most of the funds go to predominantly white organizations, hindering progress towards diversity and inclusion. We need radical transformation in CSI to ensure equal opportunities for all. It’s crucial to support and empower black-owned organizations that can effectively address the needs of marginalized communities.

If I had the power, I would fire numerous CSI managers because they don’t deserve the title. As far as I’m concerned, they are simply greedy individuals who only care about securing their positions. And when their positions are taken away, they call me asking for help.

The state of CSI in South Africa requires immediate reflection and action. CSI managers need to go beyond ticking boxes and genuinely address the real needs of the nation. Housing, safety, and security should be prioritized as the foundations for individuals to build better lives. By bridging the gap between CSI managers and the realities faced by marginalized communities, South Africa can bring about meaningful and transformative change. It’s time to face the truth instead of living in illusions. The current state of CSI in South Africa is far from satisfactory and urgent measures are needed to fix it.

And the child; said, ‘the emperor is naked!’ And the genuine emperor replied, ‘thank you child’ while the pretender replied, ‘I am not naked’.

Mtetwa Simphiwe
Simphiwe Mtetwa is the Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief for Corporate Social Responsibility News South Africa.


  • Emily Molakeng says:

    Well said Sir, the problem is right at the top where decisions are made for the the people who come very close to these sad realities. CSI in South Africa is just a window dressing so that some people can achieve what they want to achieve: for their own desires. we are using the needy in the name of BBBEE. The challenge we are faced with is that the government itself is not doing anything about this. Just like the labour department, the NPAT thing does not even get considered and if it is, it goes to wrong projects to achieve the status of BBBEE.

    I could say a lot but will there be change…. Let’s wait for God to fetch His church and face the reality of that time..Judgement day that’s it.

  • Motlatsi says:

    Oh my goodness this has been my observation over the years to a point where CSI Managers are scared to even go down to poor communities. They see a black young person as an enemy instead of working with them. Recently I went for interview for CSI officer and I could hear from the panel that all they want is someone who will deal with grievances of the community and not bring tangible development.

    I’m full time on the ground and realizing how companies do not want to work with community it saddens me. Instead all they do they just throw small monies. Something needs to be done definitely.

  • Gcinile says:

    Well said, I always make an example that they build tennis courts and swimming pools in the Rurals, but kids can’t read and write. I still can never believe after over 28 years of democracy, and 1% of the billions mines have to take back, but are still facing these little big problems. I have always wondered, thank you for the clear answers. When you love people and want to help people really LinkedIn is just depressing.

  • Gogo says:

    Well the thinly-veiled racism, xenophobia, misogyny, etc is out and about, almost with a megaphone. But don’t worry. When democracy began there were 20% whites and now there’s about 7% and they’re going. Overseas if they’re not too old and poor, Western Cape if their qualifications aren’t usable in other countries. Their skills will steadily be lost to South Africa but no longer will you be beset by pale cousins from the north. Fast in their footsteps are the black Middle Class, fed up with no electricity, precarious water supplies, crime corruption thuggery and more crime. So rather than looking at people’s melanin or home language, why not look at the character and calibre of the men/women who have chosen to live in Africa, were probably born in Africa, and love them enough to keep them by your side, at your workplace, at your braai, in your circle of real friends. Until you choose to change and become more open to opportunity and challenging your own illogical fears (prejudice), the only route is down. With love to all our neighbours because We Are One

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