English: This article reflects critically on the role played by religious networks – in particular the
African Independent Churches or African Initiated Churches (AICs) – in enhancing social protection by means of informal coping mechanisms in the South African context. It also examines various factors that contribute towards informal social security dependency in AICs, namely the influence of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the limited scope of social security coverage, the restricted family concept (underlying much of the formal system which does not reflect the family context in South Africa), African traditional values, and Christian principles. In addition, the article investigates the nature of the relationship between informal coping mechanisms (such as those in AICs) and formal social security, i.e. whether informal social security strengthens or weakens formal social security. It finally explores ways and means of strengthening informal social security, in particular in the wake of challenges such as HIV/AIDS, urbanisation and migration.