A guide to helping those protecting others during the pandemic

A South African woman prepares a hot meal for the community in the informal settlement of Masincedane which is a beneficiary of the 9 Miles Project and Hope Southern Africa (HOSA) COVID-19 feeding scheme in Cape Town, South Africa, 28 April 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA)

NEWS | By Christi Nortier | 4 May 2020

Below is a selection of civil society organisations, useful hotlines and reliable resources of information and data which are operated mostly by volunteers doing their best to assist during and after the lockdown. It is not an exhaustive list, but it is a start and we will continue to update it.

The need is overwhelming, but then again it always has been. Before this crisis, there was always an entire sector of society working through civil society organisations to tackle the daily emergencies in South Africa. Some are decades old and some are brand new, but all have pivoted to help during and after the lockdown.

Civil society organisations providing support 

It’s all well and good that government is stepping up to the plate, but this will not be enough to ensure a just and broad response. This is the argument of the C-19 Coalition – a collection of nearly 300 trade unions, civic organisations, faith-based organisations, community structures and organisations of informal workers. The coalition’s mission is to advocate for the rights and well-being of the most vulnerable in our unequal society, and to make sure that safety measures are shared equitably.

Any organisation that subscribes to its founding statement and principles can join one of its nearly 20 working groups, and anyone can join its online People’s Assemblies. These sessions are where activist working groups present and debate their policy briefs and proposals. The website has a wealth of information about how to organise for action during the pandemic.

Collective action networks (CANS) have sprung up in the Western Cape and Gauteng since the start of the lockdown. There are murmurs that one might be developing in the Eastern Cape. The aim is to connect members of a specific neighbourhood to one another so that they can draw on the strengths and energy of others nearby.

Those CANS can then link up with others in their area – for instance, in Cape Town, the Gugulethu CAN and Sea Point CAN have linked up to share resources. CANS can be started by anyone, anywhere, and their focus can be shaped to the needs and resources of the residents.

See where CANS are in the Western Cape and sign up or start your own. Cape Town Together has created a page dedicated to helpful CAN resources.

Sign up or start your own CAN in Gauteng.

The Treatment Action Campaign was founded in 1998 to campaign for access to AIDS treatment and has been a champion of the cause ever since. It continues this work today, but also advocates for stronger health systems, access to affordable and quality medicine and building local activism.

They are keeping a close eye on the supply of antiretrovirals and ease of access during the lockdown by launching a survey. They will no doubt advocate for the rights of those living with HIV through the pandemic, as those living with HIV may be especially vulnerable to Covid-19 as their respiratory and immune systems are compromised.

The Gift of the Givers is a disaster response non-governmental organisation and is the biggest of its kind on the continent. Since 1992 it has been tackling disaster situations, hunger, water, education and healthcare.

Before the pandemic, its big focus was on water provision, but it has combined this with offering support for the country’s healthcare system. It was integral to the mission to repatriate South Africans from Wuhan and is leading the effort to purchase personal protective equipment, expand hospital facilities and provide affordable testing.

ForGood.co.za links up those who want to donate money, time, skills or goods to specific causes. During this lockdown, they encourage virtual volunteering: those who have digital skills can offer to help civil society organisations with social media, information campaigns, data capturing or translation.

Communications professionals can join the CovidComms SA network as a communications volunteer to link up with the government and others in creating and distributing accurate, reliable information about Covid-19 in South Africa.

People across the country, in places big and small, are getting out into communities in spite of the potential harm to themselves. Daily Maverick brings you this first version of a Covid-19 relief resource list to find vetted charities, NPOs and community organisations where you can donate, money, food, clothes or some of your time. This list was initially put together by artist Zara Julius and expanded on by our head of business development, Gerald Schreiner. It is a work in progress and we endeavour to complete it with more organisations and initiatives spanning the entire country.

Government efforts to assist

The Solidarity Response Fund was created by the government just as the State of Disaster was declared. It is a public benefit organisation with its own board mostly made up of individuals from business and government.

Fund officials say they have been “overwhelmed” with pleas for help. While it is not a civil society organisation, it is being assisted by a number of them. It’s delivering food parcels around the country with the help of the Department of Social Development, Islamic Aid, Africa Tikkun, Food Forward and the Lunchbox Fund. In addition, it has launched an information campaign in all 11 official languages. It purchases personal protective equipment for health workers as well as test kits and ventilators.

Useful websites and hotlines for information and reporting on injustice

If you need information on how to go about being tested for Covid-19, call the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on its 24-hour toll-free number 0800 029 999.

Jive Media Africa is “spreading the word, not the virus” through its series of brightly illustrated posterswhich explain the best practice in hand washing, social distancing and making a “tippy tap”. The posters come in 15 languages and are free to download in high resolution.

If you would like to build a tippy tap, WaterAid has put out an illustrated step-by-step guide on how to do it.

As the lockdown morphs, there have been and will be many changes to restrictions. Under the State of Disaster, the Constitution remains intact. This resource written by activist lawyers from the C-19 Coalition breaks down the new regulations and what your rights are under the lockdown and the State of Disaster.

Below is a summary of the contact details of various legal service providers which have continued providing support under the lockdown:
A number of organisations offering legal services have vowed to stay open during the lockdown in South Africa, however they operate virtually. This poster provides information on which services they can offer currently. (Source: Equal Education Law Centre.)

The Department of Employment and Labour has put out a directive on the obligations of employers and employees as millions go back to work. The Casual Workers’ Advice Office has published a summary of the directive and provides details on who to contact if your workplace is unsafe.

Section 27 has created an “educational resource map” for learning during the lockdown. Resources are grouped into online, TV and literacy sections and include programme schedules, e-textbooks and online courses.

The Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education has published an illustrated guide to better explain the interplay of rights, technology and the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has exacerbated an already dire food crisis in South Africa. The South African Food Sovereignty Campaign has called for food sovereignty pathways to be built during and after the lockdown. Read their guide on food sovereignty here.

Lawyers for Human Rights has created guides on rights during lockdown, with some focused on explaining the rights of specific groups such as essential workers and children.

Fear, anxiety, apprehension and sadness are understandable states of mind to be in right now. But you don’t have to face them on your own:

  • National Medical Frontliners Counselling 24-hour Hotline (WhatsApp): 079 513 7015
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (24 hour): 0800 456 789 (tel); 31393 (sms)
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group suicide crisis line (24 hour): 0800 567 567
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (WhatsApp support): 076 882 2775
  • Lifeline Crisis (24 hour): 0861 322 322
  • Lifeline Counselling (WhatsApp): 065 989 9238
  • Gift of the Givers toll-free careline: 0800 786 786
  • Substance Use & Abuse hotline: 0800 121 314

The government has set up hotlines which can be contacted by those who are the target of gender-based violence during the lockdown. The GBV command centre can be called on 0800 428 428 or contacted via Skype (HELPMEGBV). The toll-free number is *120*7867#.

Price-gouging is not just unethical, but also illegal. If you suspect a company is doing this, report them by calling 0800 141.

A group of students from the University of Cape Town has put together a database listing the funding opportunities for small-business entrepreneurs during the outbreak. They break down who might be eligible and which documents are required. They also researched how small businesses in townships have been impacted by the outbreak and how they can best be assisted.

The Covid-19 Fund Finder tool has been developed by a group of communication and business experts to help companies refine their search for applicable funding in less than a minute.

To apply for a social relief or distress grant, check the Covid-19 Online Resources and News Portal for the contact details of the SASSA call center in your province. Alternatively, they can be emailed on [email protected].

When faced with police corruption, abuse of power or your own arrest it is crucial to know what your rights are. Lawyers for Human Rights has put together a guide on the powers and obligations of law enforcement during the lockdown. A series produced by Corruption Watch explains how to recognise police corruption and abuse of power, what your rights are in these situations and what to do. Find the brochures here.

To report a police officer’s misconduct, file the complaint with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, which can be contacted on 012 399 0000.

To report a traffic officer’s misconduct, call the National Traffic Call Centre on 0861 400 800. This number can also be used to report bad driving and unsafe vehicles.

To report a soldier’s misconduct, file a complaint at your nearest police station or contact the military ombudsman.

The South  African Human Rights Commission continues to monitor human rights abuses during the pandemic and can be contacted to lodge a complaint, for yourself or on behalf of others, against any security forces for misconduct.

Reliable sources of data

For any health-related guidance, head to the website of the National Institute for Communicable Diseasesor call them on 0800 029 999.

For data on the spread of Covid-19 around the world, you can’t do much better than the Covid-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University. The interactive map is constantly updated, and the graphics are easy to navigate.

For the latest figures in South Africa head to the Covid-19 Online Resources and News Portal. It is updated just after health minister Zweli Mkhize announces new statistics. It also lists the designated hospitals managing Covid-19 cases in each province.

A team made up of scientists from Wits University, iThemba LABS, the NRF and DataConvergence have created a dashboard where they upload and update their graphs illustrating Covid-19 data for South Africa.

Misinformation about Covid-19 is likely spreading faster than the virus itself. The stalwart of fact checking, Africa Check, has launched a live guide to all of their coronavirus fact-checks. It covers cures and preventions, hoaxes and scams, dubious videos and images, conspiracy theories, audio and podcasts and “things that are actually true (but you thought they weren’t)”. DM/MC