Published on:

October 25, 2020

In the 17th instalment, the conversation reflected some of the lessons learned during the pandemic, and the recommendations from partners of the Trust. The panellists included Christabel Phiri (Programme Manager), Marlon Zakeyo (Executive Manager for Programmes) and Masego Madzwamuse (CEO), of Southern Africa Trust.

Looking at the status quo at present, compared to that in May, Marlon began with his view that young people hold the key to the future. Mentioning earlier sessions of Society Talks, he recalled that while older people were fixated on how they were going to cope with a virus about which so little was known, the youth spoke more positively about how to create a bigger and better future on the back of it. He also mentioned his admiration for the partner organisations’ resilience and adaptability to the ‘new normal’.

Christabel spoke of the vulnerability of civil society, in terms of both financial sustainability and the accessibility of resources. She said civil society organisations and non-state actors need to move from developing funding proposals to a more active role of resource generation and establishing social enterprise. Mentioning women cross border trade, she said social insurance and protection is needed more than ever. In response to organisations being unable to implement their programmes or interact with their constituencies, having to use alternative methods of communication, has highlighted the lack of technology. Also, on that note, she emphasised how important it is right now, to strengthen advocacy and ensure that governments are held accountable to implement their programmes and policies, with no further delays.

Marlon explained Regional Apex Organisations of Civil Society: umbrella associations representing different NGO organisations and social movements, these include the SADC Council of NGOs, Economic Justice Network, and Christian Councils of Southern Africa, with a sister platform representing the social movements and informal organisations.

In terms of the issues, Marlon began with the economic devastation that has been experienced by communities, and also the definition of ‘front-line workers’ – in addition to the healthcare workers, the civil society organisations who have been working with the vulnerable, must be included in this grouping. Without these CSO workers, issues like gender-based violence would not have been brought to light.

Christabel expanded on this, mentioning a movement to expand technology and communication amongst the cross-border trade associations, so that trade can be facilitated once again. Looking at access to resources and funding, there has been an effort to update membership details so that when borders reopen, trade is not delayed. In addition, opportunities for activities to generate an income while cross border trade is still prohibited, have emerged, like the making of masks.

With regards to miners and migrant workers, particularly those with occupational diseases, communication was vital to ensure access to healthcare. CSOs have had to engage with government on behalf of these extremely vulnerable constituencies, finding ways to work around pandemic restrictions at times.

There has been collaboration between the private sector and various organisations, to bring aid to those most in need. An example was mining communities, whose most pressing need was food.    

Marlon reflected on how so many interactions, even weddings and funerals, have become digital, and how there is a risk of exclusion for members of communities who do not have access. He also spoke of the collaboration between groups – in times of a pandemic, no organisation can work alone, if success is to be achieved.  

Looking at social protection, and the deficit in funding, most the funding at present comes from donors, which is obviously limited. Governments need to be engaged, to see how much they can allocate to social protection systems, to ensure a basic level of income protection for most of their citizens.

Christabel spoke of the unique opportunity that has been provided through the pandemic, showing us what the challenges are, where the most important issues lie. Programmes can be finetuned to address the needs of specific groups, like smallholder farmers and women cross border traders.

Marlon expounded on the Basic Income Grant, and how this needs to be developed – using the experiences of people during this pandemic, to prepare for the next one, or the next natural disaster. He said there needs to be an understanding that social protection is not a privilege, or a handout, it’s a basic right.

Summing up the three biggest issues, Masego listed social protection, ending hunger and food insecurity, and rethinking of the economic system.

In response to Masego’s question of what the ideal future in Southern Africa would look like to them, the panellists replied:

·       Solidarity within the sector

·       Partnerships between civil society and the private sector

·       Digital transformation

·       Strengthening of operations, specifically in saving

·       Improved access to information – shared experiences, knowledge, research, data

·       More integration of cultures within the SADC region

·       More equality, in terms of healthcare

·       A self-reliant Southern Africa in terms of food security, falling back on traditional practices

·       The re-defining of front-line / essential workers

·       A stronger education system

·       Robust community organisations

The Private Sector, Agriculture and the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the 16th instalment, of Society Talks, the conversation focused on the increased pressure on food security in Southern Africa, exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic, especially for smallholder farmers, rural and vulnerable groups.

Read More

Unclaimed Social Security Benefits and Impact of COVID-19 on Migrant Mine Workers

In the 15th instalment, the conversation focused on the challenges of migrant mine workers during the pandemic, specifically their inability to claim owed social security benefits, and their existing comorbidities that expose them to higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Read More

COVID-19 Impact on SADC Food Systems, Smallholder Agriculture and Policy Options

In the thirteenth instalment of Society Talks, the conversation focused on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women farmers in Africa, as well as looking at the challenges faced by smallholder farmers.

Read More

Rethinking the Social and Economic Order for the Future – A Feminist Perspective

In the twelfth instalment of Society Talks, the conversation centred on a feminist view of social inclusion, post-pandemic – a time for inspirational leadership that sustains the energy gained during the pandemic.

Read More

Supporting Indigenous Communities in Africa Beyond COVID-19

In the eleventh instalment, the discussion looked at the disproportionate affect that the pandemic has had on indigenous communities, which has magnified structural inequalities and discrimination – and how critical long-term solutions are needed post-COVID.

Read More

Youth Social Entrepreneurship in Africa

COVID-19 has been a platform which many young social entrepreneurs have used to practice innovation as a means to make an impact in their communities. Society Talks hosted 3 such individuals as we unpack better understand how #Youth are using innovation for the betterment of all.

Read More

Reflecting on the Southern Africa Region’s Different Responses to COVID-19

In the first instalment of Society Talks, the conversation centred on the responses of various governments in the SADC region, just after the announcement of projected COVID-19 numbers in Africa: a million infections,with 300 000 expected fatalities

Read More

The Experiences of Community Foundations Amidst COVID-19 Responses

#COVID19 has impacted Community Foundations who play a major role in meeting the needs of marginalised groups. Society Talks hosts Foundation representatives to share their COVID-19 experiences of and responses to the pandemic.

Read More

The Importance of Disaster Preparedness in a Time of Climate Change

COVID19 reminds us of the criticality of Disaster Preparedness as a means to ensure the impact of disasters & pandemics are kept to a minimum. This Society Talks conversation focused on the need for disaster preparedness, to ensure that the impact of natural disasters and pandemics are kept to a minimum

Read More

Food Security and how Smallholder Farmers are Critical to Community Survival

In its sixth instalment, Society Talks hosted a dialogue centred on smallholder farmers and their role in community survival. The panellists were from South African Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA), Mozambique National Small-Scale Farmers Forum (UNAC), and the Eastern & Southern African Small-Scale Farmers Forum (ESAF).

Read More

Informal Cross Border Trade in Southern Africa and how the Sector will Recover

In the third instalment, Society Talks hosted a conversation that looked at the impact that COVID-19 has had on the small-scale cross border trade. Panellists were from the Malawi Cross Border Traders Association, the Southern Africa Cross Border Traders Association in Zambia, Trade Law Centre, and the Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders Association.

Read More

COVID-19 Economic Relief Packages and the Future of Social Protection

In the second instalment, Society Talks centred on the economic relief responses from government that have been made available to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also looking at the gaps in policy and what needs to change in future. 

Read More

Join our network