Designated as first responders, The Domino Foundation’s Disaster Relief Unit was in the vanguard of those who stepped into the breach after the civil unrest which rocked the province in July. Previous calamitous events, which initially had been tackled on an ad hoc basis, had already led to the formulation of a general strategy encompassing the four phases of disaster management: mitigation; preparedness; response and recovery. In the process over the past couple of years, a partnership of five NPOs under the name of KZN Response had come together to implement whatever aspects of this strategy applied in any particular set of circumstances. The association garnered the specific strengths of City Hope Disaster Relief, The Domino Foundation, KwaZulu Natal Christian Council (KZN CC), The South African Red Cross and Zoe-Life, to tackle the effects incurred by shack fires, flooding and xenophobia-inspired violence.
With so many shopping centres having been destroyed, the immediate response called for easing the plight of some of the thousands of already vulnerable persons who now were bereft of accessible places to purchase basic necessities and cut off from the supply chain. Some of those with immediate needs were semi-urban and rural families as well as refugees and foreign nationals impacted by the crisis. By partnering with a number of NPOs across the province, six distribution centres and pack-houses were set up across the province.
To facilitate an effective response to this kind of challenge, the starting point has to be the gathering of real-time data. KZN Response conducted door-to-door household-vulnerability surveys in communities, cross-referenced this data with critical supply-chain information from major retailers as to which of their stores would be online again within the short, medium and long terms. This done, the call went out to the network of corporates, organisations and individuals across the country to donate in cash or kind to the collection of basic non-perishable items. The response was overwhelming and meticulous logistical planning was going to be critical in the sorting and packing of the donations, and in the distribution to those in need. For the KZN Response team, accountability was key and so mapping the distribution of aid was a critical component in the operation. An interactive map which tracks relief aid, hotspot areas and SMEs supported can be viewed online at www.dominofoundation.org.za/civil-unrest.
The KZN Disaster Response again relied on shifts of volunteers, made up of corporate staff, church outreach teams and school learners and networked with over 230 organisations to assemble over 20 500 relief hampers which it or one of its partnering organisations then distributed to households in need. Over 82 000 individuals in peri-urban and rural communities across the province were served in this way. The KZN Response team also facilitated the distribution of a further 11 354 hampers supplied by the Heal Our Land initiative. These brought relief to another 45 416 persons. Five schools which had been looted received support during the operation and 3102 learners were fed. Commenting on the response phase of the mammoth exercise, head of the Disaster Relief Unit, Cathy Whittle, said: “We as the KZN Response Team organised ongoing outreaches, managing trucks full of donations and distributing food and essential items to affected communities. We strongly believe that we needed to act fast with structure in order to help those in need.”
The next pressing priority was to shift from crisis-response to a long-term recovery strategy. The first imperative was to clear the wreckage left by the violence so that an assessment of what remained intact could be made. In the first days after the violent looting sprees, Domino marshalled brigades of volunteers in five areas in and around Durban to clear the broken glass and other debris. Domino worked with DSW and Global Shapers to clean parts of Durban CBD, Umhlanga and Cornubia. The NPO’s Mandela Day initiative gathered hundreds of volunteers who served the city through clean-up efforts on 17th and 18th July, focusing on Pickering Street, Shepstone, Dr Langalibalele Dube Street, Fountain Lane and the Berea Centre.
Domino CEO, Shaun Tait, spoke the NPO’s recovery phase strategy: “Stage 1 of our strategy was the clean-up in the immediate aftermath of the unrest. The second stage is that of economic recovery. We are working together with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as with VumaFM, Tencent Africa and Domino Business, to support SMEs which were negatively impacted by the lootings. We sub-contracted our associated company, Domino Business Development (Pty) Ltd, to do the work and they built the business-recovery model. Through assessments, site visits, mentor-coaching sessions and the provision of financial grants, our goal is to get businesses back up and trading as quickly as possible to recover the livelihoods of entrepreneurs and employees.” Each week, VumaFM’s “It’s All About The Money” show features two businesses whose story during the civil unrest is shared. In the course of the programme, it is announced that the businesses are recipients of the SME grants and the following week, the appropriate actions to rehabilitate the businesses is put into action.
Ten businesses in both township and rural communities, ranging from a dental practice to SPAZAs, a funeral service to a traditional clothing and beading concern, an IT training and internet café to a bedding store and a small enterprise which sells cabbages to a construction business, have been identified as potential recipients of grants of between R20 000 and R50 000, depending on the needs of the particular business. Leader of the Domino Business team, Mickey Wilkins, explained: “The businesses were validated as being legitimate enterprises and the damage done to them and what it would involve to get them up and trading again as soon as possible were assessed,” The business owners, with the Domino Business assessors, then signed documents validating the findings, confirming the timelines and what the grant would be spent on. The team was scrupulous in its collection of the businesses’ CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) documents, their identity documents, SARS registration details and SAPS case numbers to ensure that the businesses were correctly registered Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The process continues with the release of the funds. This happens in two tranches with the first payment being the larger of the two. This permits the business to start re-establishing itself. Once invoices have been paid, stock has been ordered and security put in place (depending on the damage report) the second tranche is released. To ensure the integrity of the whole process, follow-up site visits are conducted to confirm that the repairs have been concluded according to what the owners and Domino had agreed on. Shaun continued: “Our goal is to then do follow-up mentoring sessions (if funding allows) and conduct a 3-month and 6-month follow-up survey to ensure the business is still trading and prospering.” Conversations with the business owners have revealed recurring key mega themes and gaps. Domino is planning workshops to address some of these. One such theme is that some businesses are asset-rich companies located in high-risk areas. Often this has meant that they are uninsurable or that the owners do not have an understanding of how insurance works. The envisaged business-training workshops would provide relevant information, network-support bases and contacts. Mickey was emphatic when he said, “We want to see these businesses build back better than they were before the looting.”
Shaun went on to explain how, over the years as The Domino Foundation’s range and scope have grown, it has developed its programmes to meet holistically the needs of individuals and communities physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually through mercy, justice and empowerment interventions. “In the early days, we were motivated by natural compassion to meet immediate needs. We have realised over the years that to provide the band-aid solution is not enough. We need to come alongside people and communities to empower them to become independent, active citizens and to flourish.”
Shaun and Mickey concurred saying that The Domino Foundation and Domino Business are very aware that there are many other deserving small and medium-sized enterprises that were adversely affected by the turmoil in July. Shaun added, “We have been very grateful to Tencent for their extremely generous demonstration of faith in these business people. We are keen to extend the project so that more enterprises can be helped, not only to re-establish themselves but in fact to come back far better-equipped to face a future in a South Africa where the commercial climate surely will have even more challenges.”
There are more than 80 other businesses The Domino Foundation has on its list which it is keen to support. It is looking for partners to get on board and support this campaign. Domino is Section18A registered and can provide B-BBEE documentation for SED and ED grants where necessary. Anyone wanting information on how they can support this initiative may contact Tarin Stevenson on 031 563 9605 or firstname.lastname@example.org or they can go online to make a donation at www.dominofoundation/donations.
About The Domino Foundation
The Domino Foundation is a registered NPO and PBO with a desire to see individuals and communities within South Africa living in dignity, justice, hope and purpose. Through their 8 focused community transformation initiatives, Domino directly impacts the lives of over 13,500 individuals daily, across KZN. The Foundation is 100% compliant in terms of the B-BBEE codes, and is able to offer companies and individuals’ maximum benefit based on their donations and seeks to collaborate with new partners to continue the #DominoEffect of changed lives, changing lives.
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