Like the rest of the world, the Southern Africa Trust is operating under a challenging and unprecedented environment presented by the COVID pandemic in this quarter. At a regional level, COVID-19 has pushed a number of the SADC states into unsustainable public debt levels. A vital indicator of the crisis that is unfolding is the increase in food insecurity in the region where in the first half of 2020, 45 million people of the region’s 345 million were at the risk of hunger. In a recent report, SADC confirmed that this was the highest number in a decade and the impact of COVID would worsen the situation in both urban and rural areas. This reality points to the urgency of addressing our mandate.
While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been the most dominant, other longstanding issues such as civil society repression and de-funding have presented significant risks to the sustainability of the work of the Trust and our partners. We have also been receiving urgent requests for emergency funding from organisations facing collapse in Botswana, DRC, South Africa and Zimbabwe, while partners working in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have alerted us to cases of arrests of human rights defenders, violent attacks and closure of CSOs.
To respond in support, we at the Trust issued a Call to Action that mobilised greater support for the civil society sector amid the pandemic and has started to bear fruit through new project funding support from the DFID and OSISA. Furthermore, through our Community Immunity Initiative, we are partnering with TrustAfrica and the African Philanthropy Network to raise greater awareness on the impact of COVID-19 amongst marginalised groups and mobilising support through horizontal and vertical philanthropy. I invite you to join the LiveStream4Africa fundraising concert which till take place on Saturday the 17th of October at 20h00 South Africa time, and enjoy the sounds of world renowned artists Baaba Maal, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Berita. This concert is hosted to raise important awareness and donations that will Community Immunity to fulfill the critical work that has been undertaken.
Working in COVID times
The challenges presented by the COVID pandemic have taken a toll on the work environment. Lockdown regulations in South Africa meant the Trust had to work remotely for the whole of the last quarter, since the end of February to be precise. And while we lost out on face-to-face interactions and the opportunities to engage directly within the office, we made good use of virtual working tools to keep the staff engaged.
We have had to renegotiate programme delivery and reporting timelines with all our funders, the majority of whom have been supportive and flexible in this regard. We have extended the same flexibility to our grantees and implementing partners.
As we are operating in a constrained financial situation, we have had to leverage on the programmes unit led by two senior managers and the Executive Manager of Programmes to work innovatively in cross-unit task-teams and to strengthen collaboration with partners. This has allowed us to respond to the challenges worsened by COVID-19 and ensured that we maintain strong links with our partners and assist them to deliver on their activities at regional, national and community level.
Remaining connected with our community
To maintain engagement with the rest of the field the Southern Africa Trust has continued to host a weekly Society Talks webinar series that brings together partners to share lessons and insights on the impact of COVID and ideas of forward-looking solutions.
Much progress has been seen through this platform, most notably in the form of a collaborative programme that tackles Food Security and the impact on Woman in Farming in our region. The most recent progress of this programme was the submission of a policy brief, made following a series of workshops and a Call for Action which was submitted to the 40th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of SADC. Fourteen civil society organisations participated in the programme, led by the Trust, the Graça Machel Trust, the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) and the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI).
Looking to the Future
With economic reopening comes the glimmer of ‘normalcy’. And while the new normal may not be conducive for the work of civil society and very often further excludes marginalised communities, we at the Trust will endeavour to remain accessible to our partners, donors and all other stakeholders. Our team has been further strengthened with the announcement of the new board of the Southern Africa Trust. With our strategic direction clear and cause for existence strengthened, our team is eager to continue the good work that has been achieved in these last few months.
Yours in building a better region