Already thousands of words have been written as reporters, commentators and analysts try to make sense of a week in South Africa that will forever be remembered as a turning point in our history. In what direction this turn takes, will be determined by what we do next. Now, South Africa is covered in a shroud of sadness after the loss of so many lives, and after the damage of infrastructure and businesses in a country already hurting from centuries of colonialisation, Apartheid, inequality, poverty, and mass unemployment.
Over the last week, we know that at least 212 people have died, 180 of them in KwaZulu-Natal. The eThekwini’s Economic Development and Planning Committee estimates that there has been:
- R1.5 billion loss of stock
- More than R15 billion worth of damage to property and equipment
- 50 000 informal traders affected
- More than 40 000 businesses affected and a bigger portion might not come back
- More than 150 000 jobs are at risk
The total impact to eThekwini is estimated to be more than R20 billion. We haven’t tracked what has happened in other parts of the country.
Founder and creative director of TSHEPO Jeans, Tshepo Mohlala says that tragedy gives us the opportunity to rebuild. While we urgently rebuild, we need to reimagine and rethink how and what we rebuild. The immediate work needed is getting food and other necessities to people; cleaning streets and neighbourhoods; and rebuilding infrastructure, logistics and businesses. Already, we are seeing this happen with humanity and generosity.
This response will only be as effective as a bandaid unless powerful and decisive interventions by law makers and governments are taken as well. We need a basic income grant, we need corruption at all levels to be rooted out and we need to strengthen robust institutions that can deliver social services. How we fix what has been broken will help ensure that what is fixed won’t be broken again. This fixing will need to happen from grassroots levels as well as through government structures and business, both big and small. As Jodi Allemeier says, there are no shortcuts.
For now, we can help by supporting organisations well-placed to collect and distribute food and other basic necessities. We are focussing our support on Gift of the Givers which is based in Pietermaritzburg. Please see link below. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves by following the seven coping tips by psychologist, coach and writer Yasmeen Engelbrecht here.
For longterm systemic change see this list of organisations that you can support. We all have the power and agency to create positive change, however big or small the action you decide to take is.
Gift of the Givers
Bank details: Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account number 052137228, Branch Code 057525, ref: KZN Crisis. For tax deductible, Section 18A certificates please send deposit slip to firstname.lastname@example.org. Details, toll free on 0800786911.
For more information, read their website here.
This already iconic image symbolising South Africa’s fall (and possible saving from the brink of an abyss) is a screen grab from footage shot by @thuthukaz for BBC. Borrowed without permission from @bbcnews website: A mother who threw her baby to a crowd from a smoke-filled building in the South African coastal city of Durban has told the BBC of her gratitude to those who saved her daughter, who turns two next month. “All I could do was trust complete strangers,” Naledi Manyoni said. She added that they were both doing well. The building they were in was set on fire by looters.