Just a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the formation of a Solidarity Fund to cushion the blow caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, it has raised over R500 million.
Speaking to the media during a virtual meeting on Monday morning, fund chair Gloria Serobe said that in addition to the seed capital of R150 million from government, the independent fund has managed to lobby over R350 million more from companies and individuals.
“As the pandemic continues to evolve at a rapid rate, we are moving with urgency,” she said.
“We have seen the fund progress from concept to operational in little over two weeks.
“As a result, the full details of how the fund will be run and the initiatives it will focus on are still being finalised.”
Serobe said that to guarantee radical transparency and the highest standards of governance, two law firms – EY and ENSafrica – have developed a governance framework that will guide the allocation of all funds to ensure their effective and efficient use.
The fund will be independently administered by Old Mutual. Its interim board consists of Serobe, vice-chair Adrian Enthoven, and ENSAfrica chair Michael Katz.
Serobe said they are in the process of finalising a board, comprising South Africans with “high integrity, skills and experience reflecting the funds’ social mobilisation mandate” and will include representatives from civil society. Their names will be announced in due course.
Serobe stressed that the key objective of the fund is to ensure that the most efficient and impactful allocation of capital is made to cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable members of society.
She said there will be continuous transparency to the public on the inflow and outflow of funds during this period.
The fund has also established a ‘war-room structure’, enabling rapid decision-making by a team of executives, administrators and service providers all working pro bono at this point.
“Motivated by patriotism and a desire to be part of a solution,” as Serobe put it.
The fund’s immediate priorities are to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) to the tune of R100 million to protect health workers.
Nicola Galombik, who is assisting with the operations of the fund, said the first batch will be purchased from reputable manufacturers in China for R52 million.
“They are the people on the frontline of the fight against the global pandemic and we are mobilising South Africans to support them.”
Galombik said this purchase includes five million masks, gloves and protective gowns.
The other immediate focus is on flattening the curve by supporting a coordinated communication and community-based campaign to reach, mobilise and support citizens across the country as they adapt to the need to “stay at home” during the lockdown to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Galombik says they will achieve this by launching a nationwide multimedia solidarity campaign to inspire and unite South Africans and have them stay at home.
She says that if necessary, the campaign will evolve according to the message the government wants to bring across at the time.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and non-governmental organisations are not yet a focus of the fund.
“The direct focus is not to [financially] support SMEs,” said Enthoven. “There is an initiative between Business for South Africa and the [Covid-19] Command Council to try and come up with packages of support measures to try and provide SMEs with support.”
He stressed that the fund is not in a position to provide SMEs with soft loans.
The Oppenheimer and Rupert family donations of R1 billion each are best seen as being responsive to the social, economic and health-impact crises that SMEs are facing.
“We have had the opportunity to engage [on] how those funds are spent and the greatest need, but I think it is important to understand that the decision-making accountability of the Rupert and Oppenheimer funds [are] not going to be subject to the Solidarity Fund,” said Enthoven.
He added that these two initiatives are designed within the broad ambit of the solidarity fund in that they aim to support those people whose lives have been affected – in their case, the owners and employees of distressed SMEs.