Building vibrant and sustainable co-operative enterprises that stimulate the social economy of the province


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Mr Dzuguda Karidzha

A brief summary of South African National Apex Tertiary Co-operative (SANACO) was given. This brief indicates that SANACO is a co-operative apex movement registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). It is a founding member of the Southern Africa Development Community Co-operative Federation (SADCCF). SANACO is an affiliate member of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). SANACO was born out of the co-operatives’ desire and that of the Department of Trade and Industry for co-operatives to speak with one voice, to have one Apex body that will represent and deliver effective, efficient and economic quality service to co-operatives in South Africa and beyond. Mr Karidza explained that SANACO was born out of a National Co-operatives Conference held in July 2008 facilitated by DTI. The Conference which made the following resolutions

  • That there be one apex body for co-operatives in South Africa

  • That a National Steering Committee (NSC) be appointed with each province appointing three members to serve in the committee

  • That the NSC organize the establishment of the one apex body in South Africa using the bottom up approach starting right from local municipality levels upwards.

The NSC concluded its mandate with the birth of SANACO on the 1st of October 2009. Its offices were officially opened by the Honourable Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Elizabeth Thabethe on the 14th of October 2011. The vision of SANACO is that of a South Africa with a vibrant co-operative movement, advanced Co-operative development, transformed gender relations and democratized access to economic participation. Its mission is to represent co-operatives and their interests at any level of the South African society and beyond and to dedicate its financial and non financial resources to serve and empower co-operatives and their members to attain socio - economic emancipation.

The Aims and Objectives of SANACO were spelt out as follows;

    1. To advance and empower all member co-operatives and their business.

    2. To engage and lobby all organs of state, the private sector and stakeholders on behalf of its members and the co-operative movement.

    3. As an Apex to act as the mouthpiece of its members in connection with any matter of mutual interest to its members and the co-operative movement in general.

    4. To represent the interests of co-operatives and the co-operative movement in the country and globally.

    5. To facilitate education and training of its members and the co-operatives in general through influencing and contributing to the content of existing education and training of co-operatives and development of education and training materials consistent with the co-operative principles as defined by the Co-operative Act 14 of 2005.

    6. To strive to establish an audit fund to assist member co-operatives to have their co-operatives audited in particular those primary co-operatives that are unable to afford the cost of auditing.

    7. To facilitate research programme to conceptualize and demonstrate the social & economic impact and the economic and service delivery potential and role of co-operatives in economic transformation.

    8. To facilitate comparative research and relevant international developments.

    9. To facilitate research to support sectoral development of co-operatives (agriculture, housing, worker. service, financial, burial, mining, marketing and supply, social and consumer).

    10. To establish a development trust that will mobilize resources for the benefit of member co-operatives and the co-operative movement of South Africa.

    11. To create an opportunity for an inclusive collective ownership of means of production.

    1. To contribute towards the transformation of the South African economy which will enable it to attain the intended true broad based black economic empowerment (BBBEE).

    2. To provide advice and support services for the entire chain of the co-operative formation process, facilitate easy registration of co-operatives, facilitate organizational development, monitoring and evaluation of co-operatives and recruitment and servicing of primary and secondary co-operatives.

    3. To build a vibrant and sustainable co-operative sector using a bottom up approach that will buttress the co-operative movement.

    4. To participate in policy dialogues and policy formulations in order to ensure that the interests of co-operatives are well articulated and embodied


The paper traced the history of Co-operative movement to the Rochdale Pioneers in England during 1844 when the industrial revolution was the economic rally point. This economic paradigm shift forced families’ spinning and weaving businesses to fold up. People were compelled to move to cities in search of employment. This type of Co-operative was formed by factory workers who were struggling to make a living. The socio economic hardships were a catalyst for the emergence of the co-operative movement.

In South Africa the co-operative movement started in 1902 after the Anglo Boer War/ South African war of 1899-1902. It was started by the Afrikaners as a response to the British’s earth scorching policy which was aimed at destroying food security as a weapon to defeat the Boers.

When the war came to an end the Afrikaner nation was faced with starvation. Sources of food security were almost destroyed. They had to unite and combine all forces for survival.

The co-operative model of socio economic model rescued the Afrikaner Volk from sure starvation and made them rise from the ashes of the scorched earth to the commanding heights of the South African economy.

They rallied behind the slogan “een drag mak mag” (unity is strength). The Afrikaner co-operative movement was a movement within the Afrikaner Nationalism movement. It was a socio economic strategy with a committed political will.

It was only in 1922 that the co-operative movement became government policy with the enactment of a 1922 Act to support co-operatives for the minority whites. Blacks were excluded from this socio -economic dispensation up to and until when Act 91 of 1981 was amended when the policy was reformed to give room for Blacks to participate in the co-operative movement.

After the historic first democratic South African elections was ushered in on the 27 April 1994 individual comrades from different political movements engaged one another towards the formation of a united, non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous Co-operative Apex movement for South Africa. These pioneers drew their experiences from abroad whilst they were in exile. To name just a few these were Tata Kwedi Nkalipi, Patrick Chan and Tebogo Phadu assisted by Lucia and Ledwick.

They registered a primary co-operative called NCASA as per the laws of that time which did not provide for a National Apex such as a National union or a federation of Co-operatives. In the context of the 1981 Act only Agricultural Business Chamber (ABC) with members from white commercial farmers existed. Members of Credit Unions or Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOS) were dominantly from the black communities.

Initially NCASA had to register as a Trust to get itself a legal status. The limitations in the 1981 Act only enabled NCASA to register not as a National Apex but as a Primary Co-operative. It has nevertheless played an important role in paving the way for the birth of a National Apex body namely SANACO.

NCASA focused on establishing sectors and coordination structures. Indeed it managed to establish SAFOBS, SAHCA and SACCOL

How SANACO is structured

SANACO is as flowing from the Pretoria showground conference structured both geographically and sectoraly, from the bottom up. SANACO’s constitution allows registered co-operatives within a municipality demarcated ward to form a SANACO basic unit. Thus it is from ward to local municipalities, to district/metro municipalities, to provinces and right through to the National Apex. The size of the leadership of each structure at any level has room for a leadership that comprises at least 5 office bearers and at most 10 members, each representing the 10 sectors forwarded by the sectors themselves wherever they exist and are affiliated to SANACO.Membership fee to SANACO is an all round nominal once off R100.

Definition of SANACO

SANACO is a national and autonomous association of secondary and primary co-operatives voluntarily organized sectorally and geographically to represent and deliver quality services to co-operatives in South Africa.


SANACO is driven by the following noble values:

  • Self help

  • Self reliance

  • Self responsibility

  • Democracy

  • Equality

  • Equity and

  • Solidarity

Dipped into the ethical values of trust, openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others

Core Principles

SANACO embraces the following core principles:

  • Voluntary and open membership

  • Democratic member control

  • Member economic participation

  • Autonomy and independence

  • Education, Training and Information

  • Co-operation among Co-operatives and last but not least

  • Concern for community


SANACO has signed and is in the process of signing Memoranda of Understandings with a number of government departments and agencies that have co-operative development programmes. SANACO’s role is to assist such entities to implement their programmes in as far as it will benefit co-operatives. SANACO submits to the slogan “nothing about co-operatives without co-operatives”. As a representative of co-operatives SANACO is forever willing to partner with anyone who has the interest of Co-operatives at heart. Some of such MOUs are:

1. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that culminated in the signing of a service level agreement with the department of Co-operative Governance (DCOG) to provide the following services:

  • Two clothing factories one in KZN and the other in the Eastern Cape

  • Capacity Building to SANACO

  • Co-operatives Development

2. Memorandum of Understanding with the Development Bank of Southern Africa Development Fund to collaborate on the following:

  • Education and Training of co-operatives

  • Joint research and knowledge sharing

  • Organizing conferences /events jointly

  • Development and sustenance of a national co-operative strategy

3. MOU with the department of Higher Education and Training to participate in the skills development revolution concerning co-operatives and their members.

4. MOU with the ANC Women’s’ League to partner them in empowering their members in co-operative development

5. MOU with the department of Trade and Industry for the establishment support of SANACO.

  1. MOU with the department of Public Works for cleaning and property management of their assets



SANACO as stated elsewhere is founding member of the Southern African Development Community co-operative Federation. The president of SANACO Mr. Lawrence Bale is the founding President. South Africa serves as the secretariat for this sub regional APEX. The Minister of Trade and Industry has pledged to assist the regional Apex body to get well established.


SANACO participates in the social dialogue at NEDLEC through the community chamber. SANACO has played a significant role at NEDLEC during the overhauling discussions of the Co-operative Act 14 of 2005. The Act if approved as proposed will provide for the establishment of a Co-operative Development Agency with co-operative representatives having a 51% Board membership.

The Act also envisages the establishment of a Co-operative College, Ministerial Advisory Board and a Co-operative Tribunal. In these entire establishments the National Apex body will be fairly represented in order to give the right counsel for the interest of co-operatives


SANACO’s application for membership to the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has been accepted. ICA is amongst other things a member of the United Nations’ Social and Economic Council. The Council’s work reaches the UN Assembly through the Office of the UN Secretary General. SANACO like all the other affiliates of ICA has an indirect access to the United Nations General Assembly. In December this year will be formally welcomed in Alliance of Co-operatives in Mexico.


From the start SANACO experienced teething problems mainly on matters of leadership preferences by some members supported by government officials wielding their own agendas. The internal hygiene and its poison slowed down the establishment pace of SANACO. The power mongering and government interferences have now been replaced by cautious support.

Some government officials fear that SANACO will take away their functions of co-operative development and as such use government resources to frustrate SANACO or create alternative structures that they can control through the use of government resources. Some officials use their insights into resources allocations to establish co-operatives for the reason of benefitting from the windfall. These are not informed by entrepreneurial imperatives but by greed and access to resources and as such as soon as the resources run dry such co-operatives fold up without trace.

Another area of challenge is the slow recognition or feeble recognition of SANACO by the various spheres of government.

This state of affairs denies SANACO the necessary support due to it. It is government policy to develop co-operatives and SANACO is after all there to help governments to achieve their goals. Governments should see SANACO as a partner in co-operative development hence some government departments and agencies have seen the light by entering into Memorandum of Understanding with SANACO in order to achieve economic freedom for the previously excluded masses who vote correctly and overwhelmingly all the time to put the current governments in power.Governments should stop trying to control co-operatives or interfere in the affairs of co-operatives but should offer support when support is needed.

The low skills level of members of co-operatives also contributes to challenges faced by co-operatives and the co-operative movement. The 80% death rate of co-operatives also emanates from the low skills levels. Whilst the co-operative model is an inclusive model it seems as if skilful people regard it as an economic participation model for the poor, unemployed and less skilled only. The amended Act provides what is called association membership. Through this approach SANACO hopes that the skilled will be willing to associates themselves with the less skilled to share the knowledge and skills for the benefit of co-operatives and the Co-operative movement.

Resources both financial and non financial are also a challenge. There is a lot of talk of resources available to assist co-operatives particularly targeting the youth, women, people with disabilities and people in rural and peri- urban areas but for these resources to reach the targeted groups is almost like a nightmare because of bureaucratic red tapes and human capital which lacks in the understanding of co-operatives and or in size.

SANACO’s sectoral formation is a source for concern. Sectors are not taking off. What is keeping SANACO going if the geographic component. Sectors have to be organized to come on board. Their roles can make the business side of the equation more valuable. The Co-operative Movement has no resources to administer its affairs. Those in the leadership positions sacrifice their meagre resources to discharge their responsibilities.

SANACO cannot be carried by the membership fees. Those departments and agencies that partner with SANACO to implement designed projects expect all the resources they put in to go into the management of the project and not assist in the administration of SANACO. Unless the Department of Trade and Industry comes to the party and provide establishment grant for the Co-operative Movement the strength of SANACO may be severely affected.


It can be reasonably concluded that the desire to have a co-operative movement in South Africa has been satisfied. The movement needs recognition and support from all spheres of government, the private sector, institutions of knowledge production and distribution, agencies and all the stakeholders who have an interest in an inclusive collective ownership of the wealth of this country in order for South Africa to have a piece in the United Nations slogan for the 2012 Co-operative Year namely “Co-operatives Enterprises Build a Better World”.

Request for Action

  • Request government at all spheres to support the idea of one South Africa one Co-operative movement

  • All co-operatives to become members of SANACO so that we can speak truth to power

  • All training institutions to ready themselves for a co-operative skills development revolution that seek s to indigenise co-operative knowledge and skills

  • Private sector to participate in economic deals that do not only make the few individuals to become stinking rich whilst leaving out the masses of our country

  • All of role players to accept that nothing can be for co-operatives without co-operatives themselves

  • Co-operation amongst co-operatives to be an important guiding principle for all true co-operatives

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