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A Programme of Action in the time of COVID-19

A Programme of Action in the time of COVID-19

A call for social solidarity in South Africa

We, as civic organisations, trade unions, organisations of informal workers, faith-based organisations
and community structures in South Africa, call on all people, every stakeholder and sector, to contain
infection, reduce transmission and mitigate the social and political impacts of the COVID-19 virus.
Government retains a critical role in coordinating actions and distributing resources, yet its efforts
will not be enough if we do not hold it to account and commit to a broad, bottom-up, public effort at
this time. In a society as unequal as ours, we must work together to ensure that all safety measures are
shared equitably.
We have a particular duty to safeguard those who are most vulnerable, those who are already living
with hunger, weakened immune systems and poor access to health care. Greater restrictions and
shutdowns are coming, but they will only work if full support is provided to working class and poor
communities. Drastic measures are needed if we are to avoid disaster. Each of us must act now.
Acknowledging other statements coming from fellow movements and organisations, we put forward the
following Programme of Action for all of us to work towards in the coming days.

1. Income security for all

In order for people to remain at home there must be income security for all. Employers must continue
to pay salaries or grant sick leave while employees are restricted to their homes, and where continued
salaries are impossible government must provide workers with income protection for wages lost during
the pandemic. There must be a moratorium on retrenchments during this time. Self-employed, casual
workers and those whose income is suspended at this time must be supported by government to
prevent job-seeking movement and provide income security. The social grant system must be extended
to ensure the direct transfer of cash to households during this precarious time. All defaults on mortgage
and debt repayments during this time must be non-consequential. All evictions and removals must be
banned. As Labour has proposed, a bold stimulus package will be required in the coming period. These
measures must be developed in consultation with poor and working-class formations.

2. All households, residential institutions, the homeless and the informally housed must have easy
access to sanitation, especially water and safe ablution facilities.

There must be an immediate opening of restricted water meters, mass-provision of safe water access
points with unconstrained flow in areas where there is limited household access to water, and mass distribution of safe ablution facilities to informal settlements. All of these sanitation points must have
access to soap and/or sanitizer and information on the prevention of the virus.

3. All households, residential institutions, the homeless and the informally housed must have access to food

If we are to stay at home during this time, access to nutritious food is fundamental. The absence of the
School Nutrition Programme is devastating. A coordinated and safe roll-out of food packages directly
to distribution points in food-stressed neighbourhoods must be implemented. Failing that, the child
support grant must be augmented. Support for locally-organised food systems must be strengthened.

4. Essential private facilities must be appropriated for public use to provide a unified and fair
distribution of essential goods and services to all

National resources need to be focused and deployed in order to combat the epidemic. Essential
services – health centres, food services, water and sanitation etc. – should be identified for urgent
support and extension. This may require the conversion of factories and other places of production to
produce sanitiser, protective clothing, water tanks, soap, food parcels, ventilators and other essential
medical equipment. Essential private facilities must be made available for public use to provide a
unified and fair distribution of essential goods and services to all. It requires that the public and private
health systems need to be regarded as one national health system and coordinated in the national and public interest, also through state appropriation if necessary, as Spain recently demonstrated. Finances
may have to be mobilised through unconventional means such as compulsory national bonds or loans,
reforms to tax structures and others. Exported food might need to be redistributed locally. Regulations
on price hikes should be implemented.

5. Community self-organisation and local action is critical, as it our representation in national

Civic organisations, community structures, trade unions and faith-based organisations will be
extremely important in organising on the ground during this emergency. We must all take action where
we are. Civic structures must be engaged, supported and given representation on the National
Command Council. The distribution of reliable information, essential services and care for our people
will require a massive coordinated effort from community leaders and structures. Volunteers must be
trained and organised for safe, coordinated, campaigns at street-level and for those living in
institutions. Middle-class and wealthy communities and organisations have an obligation to make
resources available to poor and working-class communities.

6. Community Health Workers must be insourced trained and supported and, along with other
frontline health and emergency services workers, must have access to the resources necessary to
safely and effectively contain the virus

The 70 000 Community Health Workers are the outreach arms of our health. If they and other frontline
health workers and emergency services workers are to provide the community services required during
this time, they must all have access to reliable information, safety and protective gear, and the testing
and other resources for effective containment of the virus. All workers must also receive safety and
protective gear.

7. We must identify strategies to calm tensions and divert violence in our homes

Home-based quarantine will escalate family and relationship tensions, and will likely lead to more
violence against women, children and others most marginalized in our families and communities
including LGBTI people and foreign nationals. We need to identify strategies to calm tensions and
divert violence in our homes and communities over this time. We need a strong education campaign
against all forms of violence, especially domestic violence. We need to strengthen safe responses from
existing neighbourhood, regional and national organisations supporting women and children. This
includes extending access to helplines for domestic violence, mental health, easing referral systems to
shelters, and resourcing shelters to keep them open, functional and safe in the time of the virus.

8. Communication must be free, open and democratised

There must be an immediate distribution of free data to all, so that people are able to receive good
information, contact loved ones during isolation and quarantine, and understand the measures that are
in place to create safety. Access to the best international research should be free and public. There
must be daily national press conferences from government leaders alongside scientists and
professionals who can keep all of our people informed about the emerging situation.

9. The inequalities within our educational services need to be carefully considered, and mitigated,
when moving to remote learning

Data and free website content must be made widely available to educational institutions for continued
learning. However, there is massive inequality of access to resources such as computers, electricity,
WiFi and learning space, as well difficult home situations that disproportionately affect poor and
working-class learners, students and educators. The move to online learning should be made carefully,
and as a temporary measure. We should not extend the inequalities in the education system by
affording remote education to the few. Schools and universities should consider their collective role as
community educators and developers facing an unprecedented shared experience. Schools, residences
and dormitories should be understood as a public resource during this time, including for the safe
distribution of food and other essential services interrupted by school closures.

10. We must prevent a nationalist, authoritarian and security-focused approach in containing the

We must guard against the easy deployment of military and police to create security in our
communities. We must also prevent against creating scapegoats to blame for the current crisis. Instead
we must ensure that care and resources are provided for the safety and protection of all who live in our
country and in our communities.

How each of us responds to the COVID-19 pandemic will determine who we are as a society. The
better we respond now, the better we will be after the pandemic. We must follow international best
practice and the science that we have available to us to build an assertive response that works for the
context of our own history and society. Our response must be just, equitable, and redistributive if we
are to meet the needs of all our people. In times of physical distancing, social solidarity is key.

For media contact:

Noncedo Madubedube
General Secretary, Equal Education Campaign
Cell: 079 170 4656

Mazibuko Jara
Deputy Director, Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education
Cell: 083 987 9633


• List below is that of the 105 endorsements to date, to be updated as additional endorsements
continue to come in.
1. 021 Cape Town
2. 360 Degrees Environmental Movement
3. Academic and Staff
4. Academics for Free Education
5. ActionAid South Africa
6. Active Citizens Movement
7. African Centre for Biodiversity
8. African Water Commons Collective
9. AIDS Foundation of South Africa
10. AIDS Free Living
11. Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC)
12. Amcare
13. Ashes to Purpose
14. Assembly of the Unemployed Fight
15. ASSITEJ South Africa
16. Auwal Socio-economic Research Institute
17. Black Sash;
18. Bench Marks Foundation
19. Bertha’s Cape Town
20. Bonteheuwel Development Forum
21. Centre for Applied Legal Studies
22. Centre for Faith and Community, University of Pretoria
23. Centre for Social Change, University of Johannesburg
24. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
25. Changemakers
26. Civic Action for Public Participation
27. Community Development Foundation, Western Cape
28. Community Development Foundation, Western Cape
29. Community Healing Network
30. Corruption Watch
31. Denis Hurley Centre
32. Development Works
33. Documentary Filmmakers Association
34. Economic Justice Network of
35. Equal Education
36. Extinction Rebellion South Africa
37. Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa
38. Gender Equity Unit, University of the Western Cape
39. Grace Family Church
40. Gun Free South Africa
41. HealthEnabled
42. Heinrich Böll Foundation Cape Town Office
43. Housing Assembly
44. Inclusive and Affirming Ministries
45. Inequality Alliance South Africa
46. Initiative for Community Advancement
47. Institute for Economic Justice
48. Institute for Economic Research on Innovation, Tshwane University of Technology
49. Isandla Institute
50. Ithuba Lethu Recycling Cooperative
51. Just Associates (JASS) Southern Africa
52. Keep Left
53. Khethimpilo
54. Lawyers for Human Rights
55. Liminability
56. Makause Community Development Forum
57. Marikana Youth Movement
58. Medecins Sans Frontières
59. Middleburg Environmental Justice Network
60. Mining Affected Communities United in Action
61. My Vote Counts
62. Natural Justice
63. National Union of Care Workers of SA (NUCWOSA)
64. Ndifuna Ukwazi
65. New World Foundation
66. Observatory Civic Association
67. One Voice for All Hawkers
68. Open Secrets
69. Open Society Foundation South Africa
70. Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Gauteng
71. People’s Health Movement South Africa
72. Popular Education Programme
73. Public Affairs Research Institute
74. Public Service Accountability Monitor
75. Public Services International
76. Refugee Social Services
77. Rehana Khan Parker and Associates
78. Rural Health Advocacy Project
79. SA Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union
80. SA Lawyers for Change
81. Salt River Heritage Society
82. Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT)
83. Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition
84. Sharp# movement for ecosocialism
85. Social Justice Advocacy Campaign
86. Social Justice Coalition
87. Social Law Project, University of the Western Cape
88. Society Work and Politics Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
89. Sonke Gender Justice
90. South Africa Mining Affected Communities
91. South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU)
92. South African Green Revolutionary Council
93. South African Green Revolutionary Council
94. South African Jews for a Just Peace
95. Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute
96. Support Programme for Industrial Innovation
97. Surplus People’s Project
98. The Climate Justice Charter
99. The Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU)
100. The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre
101. The Independent Producers Organisation
102. The Institute for the Healing of Memories
103. The Interim People’s Library
104. The Mbegu Platform
105. The South African Food Sovereignty Campaign
106. Treasured Gems Cancer Support
107. Treatment Action Campaign
108. Triangle Project
109. Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education
110. Tshwane Leadership Foundation
111. Westdene Sophiatown Residents Association
112. Women in Informal Employment Globalising and Organising
113. Workers World Media Collective
114. Woza Women in Leadership


From ECD to higher and further education, we measure the quality and quantity of learning, continually adapting the assessment and measurement methods required

Access to Education Study

Access to Education Study

“First nationally representative study in SA to measure the barriers to access education for primary and secondary school children”.

Education Study Fact Sheets

Social Cohesion & Protest

We study social cohesion at the community level, seeking to understand the underlying causes, triggers and responses to unrest and the ways in which communities organise and govern themselves.

Poverty & Inequality

To reduce both absolute and relative deprivation, it is crucial to understand how individuals, families and communities experience deprivation in all its dimensions, and how different people and communities experience and respond to it in different ways.

Land & Housing

Land and housing are economic assets, spaces of social interaction, and points of identity and belonging. These dimensions, and more, inform our thinking about land tenure systems, housing needs assessments, settlement planning, infrastructure impacts, urbanisation & labour mobility, informal settlement upgrades and farm worker evictions.

Farm Evictions Study

Farm Evictions Study

Farm Evictions Study “Cutting edge new methodology to measure the prevalence & impact of farm evictions in South Africa.” Book: “Still searching for Security” by Social Surveys and Nkunzi Development Association  

read more

Farm Evictions Study

“Cutting edge new methodology to measure the prevalence & impact of farm evictions in South Africa.”
Book: “Still searching for Security” by Social Surveys and Nkunzi Development Association

Social Issues in Mining

Social Surveys has a 30-year track record in the mining sector, advising communities, mining houses and civil society partners on labour migration, housing needs, relocations, employee safety and productivity, protest risk and environmental impacts.

Civil Society, Philanthropy, Giving & Volunteering

How do you understand the nature of civil society organisations, community-level philanthropy and the practices of giving and volunteering in African contexts characterised by informality, collectivism and deep mutual support networks?

The NPO Study

“First nationally representative study to determine size & scope of the NPO sector in SA – part of the Johns Hopkins NPO Project”
Book: “Size & Scope of the Non-profit Sector in South Africa” by Mark Swilling & Bev Russell-Rice


from behaviour change communication to health facility capacity assessments, and from in-depth local pilot studies to large-scale multi-method impact evaluations, our work in health spans many subjects and methods

Youth & Employment

We seek to understand the full spectrum of ways in which people participate in the economy

Methods and Field Notes

Quality in, quality out. Excellence in data collection and processing is fundamental to interpretation and insight with integrity.

Gender and Sexuality

To challenge homophobia, it is important to understand sexuality and gender issues


Events give us the chance to talk to new people. Talking is good! New people are good!