PACSA and the COVID-19 Concerned Collective

As the way of responding to the pandemic the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action in collaborating with CREATE from the 6th of April 2020 took an initiative to mobilize food parcels to needy families. This initiative was born out of two meetings these organisations had to analyse the situation the communities living under in presence of COVID 19. The two-organisation realised that by the time COVID 19 reaches some of these communities, they would have died of hunger or hunger related violence including gender-based violence. As the result the decision to intervene was taken and an electronic poster was circulated to our partners and the public soliciting food and cash donations. Within a week the public opened their hearts and pledged food items and cash donations. To this day we truly appreciate response we got from people in terms of donations.

From conception, the Food Drive was not about food only but to be in Solidarity with those who struggle for food and understand their struggle and being present. As part of Pietermaritzburg COVID-19 Concerned Collective, PACSA learnt more from the collective partner CREATE, about their partners beyond just being in a COVID 19 Solidarity. We have learnt a lot about person living with disability. In most cases able bodied person tend to feel sorry for people living with disability without understanding that it is their life and have fully control over they bodies. As the struggle for food continued and us being present, we opened up new pathways, as one our principle is “we create a path by walking it” and walking we ask. We didn’t wait for funding to start supporting the poor on the struggle for food and existence, we started and boom the ball was rolling.

We believe that there is no one coming to save us we must create an alternative way to respond to any situation and be innovative.

We have, since we started, assisted more 120 families that includes, informal settlement dwellers, households with no income, taxi drivers and their conductors, foreign nationals irrespective of their status, persons living with disabilities, women and child headed households and families from minorities which are from white and Indian communities. Our strategy of identifying families have worked for us, moving away from announcing publicly for all in need to come and collect. We have visited all 120 families, having conversation with them before handing over food. This strategy has informed us if the families really needed assistance and what more is need in terms of knowledge and fake news propaganda about the virus. The teams have had to decide there and then to give food or not give, including adding extra care, like adding adult nappies or sanitary towel.

Our Food drive was pulled to halt by an urgent circular by COGTA, requesting all organisation’s that are on food distribution to have permits to do so, failing which they will find themselves in conflict with the law. The team leaders braved cold morning and using permits from local municipality that were deemed illegal to go and register for food distribution. The team has 6 permits and ready to cover all needy communities of Umgungundlovu, targeting those who are at the margins.

One of many challenges we have encountered during the food distribution is that some places it’s business as usual people don’t adhere to lock down laws. Due to congestion there is no social distancing other don’t even have running water , we felt as social activists it’s unfair to ask people to wash hands while we can see that there is no water.