COMMUNITY CONSTITUENCY FRONT (CCF) response to the announcements on COVID-19 measures made by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 25 July 2021

The Community Constituency Front (CCF) welcomes the President’s address on Sunday, 25 July 2021 on the COVID-19 response containment measures and mitigating its impact on the economy. As we move out of the peak of the third wave and pick up the pieces after the social unrest that tore through communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Province – we call on the government to disrupt business as usual and give social partners an equal seat at the table. Pronouncements like ‘’Wonderful meetings with the business sector’’ made by the President are not going to turn the tide but what will is transparency, meaningful participation and community ownership as the only sustainable path.
Whilst most announcements made by the President are progressive, the President and his Cabinet must avoid making those types of pronouncements when they are up against a tide of socio-economic point of no return. Ours is a country that is the most unequal in the world, where the economic conditions gnaw the heart and souls of the poor. Therefore, the response, which must be proactive and be people-centered.

We are in no way condoning acts of criminality that crept into legitimate cries by South Africans who used forceful means to register their hunger and quest for government and the President to listen and respond to their cries.

The Community Constituency Front has been engaging with civil society across South Africa in order to understand the granular nature of the socio-economic challenges and required actions to forge a better path forward. These inputs have been distilled into 3 thematic areas – each accompanied by a set of actions. We outline these thematic areas below and we call on government to listen, process and integrate these into their response or to once more await another calamity and then act as has been the case with these recent socio-economic violent acts by some in society to make their voices heard.

Firstly, there is an urgent need to ensure that there is political leadership and accountability among the country’s duty bearers – both inside and outside of the formal state machinery. We note with concern the violation of community rights in response to the recent violence. Human rights must be at the centre of any redress mechanisms. Any community group or state security personnel acting in contravention of these principles must be held to account. This is critical so as not to further erode community trust. Our Constitution must never be trampled upon through acts of bravado and show of force like it was done during the apartheid years. Government must listen, process with speed and respond to the cries of all South Africans.

Secondly, the economic recovery plan must meaningfully include communities in the design, monitoring and assessment of activities. We will not settle for anything less than a demonstrated, i.e. resourced commitment to the economic and social development of women (from birth to death), youth and the marginalized in all their diversity. Our rebuilding contracts must start with these groups, not awarded to personal friends of the South African government as we come to discover when we investigate poor project delivery time and time again. Enough is enough – every contract must be accessible in the public domain. This is critical to show the South African people that we are not continuing with business as usual. Furthermore, the speed demonstrated by government and the President in responding to the violence to repair and rebuild infrastructure of business, including using the police and the soldiers should be used to address the package of socio-economic measures announced. We don’t need pronouncements that are not matched by action as they only deepen the distance between the people and government.

Thirdly, the government needs to demonstrate better leadership in the coordination of service delivery by effectively and efficiently responding to the current emergencies and engage South African business, international donor partners as well as using of existing government resources to meet immediate community needs. Civil society has quickly mobilised and continues to bring relief for those in need, without which many households would not have survived the last few weeks when the violence erupted and woke us all up from our slumber. Acting for and in the interest of the people, especially the poor remains a state responsibility – civil society should be better resourced to deliver social relief services, and a comprehensive mapping by the Department of Social Development, Department of Small Business Development and other key government departments of who is doing what, where, must be undertaken. Government must urgently engage with business, development partners and its agencies and departments implementing programmes in the country to redirect a proportion of resources to contribute to social relief efforts in a meaningful way so that we turn the tide of ours remaining the most unequal country in the world. This is critical to ensure no one is left behind. If nothing is done, we will become a failed state of angry, uncontrollable and racially divided nation.

We also take this opportunity to commend the progress and acceleration in the rollout and scale up of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out, not least because of its increasing flexibility as advocated for by civil society. Moving from 240,000 vaccinations per day to 300,000 is a noble goal. Those who demonstrate resistance to being vaccinated should not be alienated, but should be listened to, engaged so that they understand which vaccines are necessary and then become part of our champions promoting vaccination for all, everywhere irrespective of their economic or social standing. Still, we caution not to celebrate our successes too soon as we are dealing with a complex situation that requires patience, rationality and working and walking together to the finish line of triumph. As the CCF speaking on behalf of all of civil society we stand ready to work with government and other social partners as equal partners to ensure that this is reached.

Still, we have a responsibility to follow the non-pharmaceutical measures, including mask wearing, keeping a distance of 1.5 m between individuals, regularly washing our hands and ensuring that spaces are well ventilated at all times – vaccinated or not. 

The prioritisation of reaching ALL of the over 60s who have not been vaccinated cannot be overlooked. We also call on special considerations for PLHIV who are at particular risk of long-COVID. Those already enrolled in our health system must be immediately prioritised and vaccinated at the service points where Anti Retro Viral (ARV) treatment is provided.

Linked to the above – there needs to be a better integration of services at vaccination sites. The COVID-19 epidemic has set back our HIV and TB prevention and treatment targets. These vaccination sites can be used for HIV Testing Service and TB Screening to contribute towards the catch up plans that we as civil society are working tirelessly to implement to save lives.

Finally there is a growing challenge for those who do not have an ID document who are being denied vaccination. This is not only impacting our immigrant community but also many groups of South Africans. We call on the President to ensure that government without further delay puts in place a system that responds to this service gap – and facilitates vaccines for all – with or without identification papers.

The success of our efforts will only be possible by following a whole-of-society approach. We therefore call for transparency, accountability and meaningful citizen participation in government’s stated goal to “accelerate the implementation of economic reconstruction and economic recovery plan to create employment and drive inclusive growth”.

As the CCF we stand ready, boots and flip-flops on the ground to contribute with wealth of expertise and volunteers as we all rebuild better. Let us walk this journey together, because without civil society we are setting ourselves up to fail and render our communities invisible, as objects and not partners in development.

Issued by Mabalane Mfundisi: Co-Convener of the Community Constituency Front (CCF)

For more information and interviews, contact:

Refiloe Menoe – Media & Communications Coordinator – CCF

refiloe@showmeyournumber.org.za

078 400 3182

ABOUT COMMUNITY CONSTITUENCY FRONT (CCF)

The Community Constituency Covid-19 Front was established in March 2020 as a formal advisory body to facilitate the participation of civil society sectors and networks, including those represented in the national response and implementations of Community-Based Measures in response to the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). The Community Constituency Covid-19 Front promotes an inclusive, competent and responsive civil society that effectively serves the needs of communities by linking and diversifying civil society actors, expanding the sector’s response and ensuring better coordination, thus improving operations, and enhancing connections between civil society organisations with government, business labour, their stakeholders and beneficiaries. The Covid-19 Front aims to provide a hub of information and contacts for distribution and engagement through our members across the country.