Lockdown: More than 60 Gauteng community networks established to aid those in need

Joburg Mayoral Member of Committee (MMC) for housing Mlungisi Mabaso and Uwais Qarni Islamic Centre give out food parcels at Denver Hostel in Johannesburg.(Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images)
Joburg Mayoral Member of Committee (MMC) for housing Mlungisi Mabaso and Uwais Qarni Islamic Centre give out food parcels at Denver Hostel in Johannesburg.(Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images)

More than 60 Community Action Networks (CANs) have been established in Gauteng to address the impact of Covid-19 in the province by providing food and social support to those in need.

Networks have been set up in Diepsloot, Zandspruit, Fourways, Sandton, Observatory, Johannesburg Inner City, Moroka, Naledi, Lenasia, Ennerdale, Thokoza, Vosloorus, Stretford (Orange Farm) and Olievenhoutbosch, among others.

The CANs initiative was launched by the Gauteng Together initiative and Premier David Makhura three weeks ago to mobilise communities to self-activate and address the negative social impact of the pandemic.

The various CANs have already started initiatives.

For instance, the Inner City CAN has mapped the needs of the area and already has a list of more than 2 000 people who require help; the Fourways CAN and several others have chosen to link up with NGOs and aid organisations and fellow CANs to offer assistance; and residents in Gallo Manor, Sandown and Wendywood have been mobilised to contribute towards grocery collection drives.

The Diepsloot CAN has identified families in need of educational materials for children and reading lessons are being arranged via video, while the Lenasia CAN has been working with the Joburg Region G: Disaster Management Team and local organisations to identify where and how food hampers must be delivered.

Gauteng Together's Diricilla Naidoo said the response from ordinary people was overwhelming.

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"It is a good indicator that communities see the value in setting up sustainable networks to deal with food insecurity and the impact of the virus," Naidoo said.

"Our plan over the next few weeks is to broaden the network to Sedibeng and the West Rand, which are the two poorest regions in the province, as well as to Tshwane and Ekurhuleni."

However, CANs are currently not able to meet all the needs of communities in the province as they are neighbourhood establishments that have limited capacity and resources.

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The value of the CANs lies in offering assistance in the gaps not met by government funding and grants, said Gauteng Together's Neeshan Balton.

"Over the next few weeks, government's stimulus package and the slight easing of lockdown restrictions will go some way towards kick-starting the economy. However, this will not be sufficient to solve all the problems as the needs far outweigh these measures.

"While South African citizens may have access to the grant system, even increased grants over the next six months may not stave off hunger for those suddenly unemployed or who unable to earn through the informal sector. Poverty-stricken foreign nationals who cannot apply for benefits also are being hard hit."

Balton has called on the government to provide a clear policy directive on how it aims to co-ordinate food distribution efforts in partnership with aid organisations and grassroots initiatives. He also urged more people in Gauteng to heed the call to activate CANs so that structures across a wider base of neighbourhoods can do their bit.

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