A policy analysis of self-governed collective action among agricultural cooperatives in uMgungundlovu District, KwaZulu-Natal.
Shisanya, Florence Adhiambo.
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To address the injustices of apartheid rule, the African National Congress government embarked on a series of policy reforms, among them the overhaul of the old Cooperatives Act no. 19 of 1981 to The Cooperatives Act no. 14 of 2005. According to Ostrom (1990) cooperatives are a typical example of self-organised collective action groups in which the actors stand to earn mutual benefits, strictly if they can curb free-riding, instil commitment, have a constant supply of rules, and oversee individual adherence to the rules. Management of cooperatives as business enterprises is difficult given their unique nature: they are voluntarily and democratically created by the owners who serve as the management and the client (Prakash, nd). This study set out to analyse self-governed collective action among agricultural cooperatives in uMgungundlovu District KwaZulu-Natal Province. In this study Ostrom’s (1990), Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action, is used as the conceptual framework and the mixed methods approach is employed. The findings of this study show that community attributes did not facilitate the formation and sustained governance of these cooperatives. The cooperatives lacked the necessary resources and had only one partner; the government. The seemingly abundant but segmented and uncoordinated support from various government departments did not reach most cooperatives and hindered them from becoming autonomous. Members of cooperatives did not understand the concept “cooperative” and lacked basic skills in governance. The high mushrooming rates, drop-out rates and collapse rates of cooperatives also point to the failure of members of cooperatives to govern themselves. Thus, fragmented implementation of the Cooperatives Act no 15 of 2005 has resulted in failed self-governed collective action among the emerging agricultural cooperatives in South Africa. There is therefore the need for a coordinated support to cooperatives and to separate the Cooperatives Development Policy from the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Policy and implement the policy according to the cooperative principles and values. All the stakeholders need to be equipped with a thorough understanding of the concept "cooperative" and made to work towards establishing an independent cooperatives movement with varied partners. There exists very little research on self-governance of cooperatives in South Africa, most of which is economics based and often covers small pockets of the country. There is need for further research which is social science oriented and covers wider areas of the country that will help authenticate and compare the findings of this study.