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Low vaccine uptake and July unrest sees Solidarity Fund extend its lifespan

Fund has raised over R3.4bn and disbursed R2.62bn – and received a clean audit.
A Solidarity Fund initiative provided waste pickers in Johannesburg with emergency food parcels during the initial hard lockdown last year. Image: Luba Lesolle/Gallo Images via Getty Images

South Africa’s low Covid-19 vaccine uptake and the devastating July unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng have warranted the Solidarity Fund continuing its work and extending its lifespan until at least the end of September 2022.

This was revealed by officials of the fund on Tuesday during a webinar, where the fund’s financial results for the year ended February 2021 were released.

An audit by independent auditors PwC found that no wastage or misappropriation of funds took place since the establishment of the Solidarity Fund in March last year as a response to the Covid-19 health crisis.

Read: Solidarity Fund emphatic no money has been misappropriated

The fund has received donations totalling just over R3.4 billion to date and disbursed R2.62 billion in the fight against the pandemic.

During the reporting period, 43 projects received funding and cover health, humanitarian and behavioural change response efforts.

Health response remains the priority

According to the fund’s report, it has dedicated a large chunk of the money raised to 16 projects connected to its health response.

Around R1.53 billion was allocated to providing personal protection equipment, strengthening the health system by providing hospitals with essential equipment, Covid-19 testing capacity, supporting the country’s vaccination rollout programme, and supporting research.

Extending its lifespan will also enable the fund to support efforts towards the full reopening of the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, which was devastated by a fire in April.

“We believe that it [the hospital] plays a critical role in the health-care service chain for Gauteng’s Covid management because it is a specialist hospital for infectious disease management among other things,” said Solidarity Fund health pillar co-lead Dr Gugu Ngubane.

Read: Water, power cuts and neglect are taking their toll on SA’s top hospitals

She said the hospital has the capacity to manage over 5 000 Covid patients, as was the case during the second wave of the pandemic over December and January.

“An amount of R68 million has been approved by our board for funding in support of achieving fire compliance in Block 1 of the hospital,” Ngubane said.

“This investment in restoring [the Charlotte Maxeke] hospital’s operations fulfils the fund’s objectives of having both a direct benefit in Covid-19 management in regards to the [expected] fourth wave in the Gauteng health system as well as leaving an important legacy beyond the pandemic.”

July unrest

The Solidarity Fund established a Humanitarian Crisis Relief Fund (HCRF) in July this year following the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. This fund, which has a temporary lifespan of up to six months, is aimed at responding to the humanitarian, medical and economic crisis that has emerged from the unrest.

The Solidarity Fund’s board approved the reassignment of R100 million from the Covid-19 fund to the HCRF. This temporary fund has also received R400 million from government and managed to raise a further R89 million from donors.

“One of the Solidarity Fund’s key priorities is ensuring that the funds available go where the most good can be achieved,” said Adrian Enthoven, deputy chair of the fund.

The Solidarity Fund has also collaborated with the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) to establish a financial relief programme aimed at supporting businesses affected by the riots and looting in July.

Support for businesses

It has set aside R450 million in relief funds to support small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).

Enthoven noted that numerous small businesses were affected by the unrest, adding: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and economy – providing employment and access to goods and supporting suppliers.

“Those SMMEs that are not covered by insurance have been left with few options for survival, together with those who depend on them to make a living.”

Those wanting to apply for funding need to meet certain criteria

The business must:

  • Be located in Gauteng and/or KwaZulu-Natal;
  • Demonstrate that it was affected by the riots and the unrests;
  • Be a registered company, close corporation or cooperative;
  • Be a taxpayer in good standing and provide proof thereof from the South African Revenue Service (Sars);
  • Demonstrate that the jobs lost during the unrest will be restored or increased within 12 months of receiving funding; and
  • Demonstrate the need for funding and the ability to service the loan.

The fund noted that:

  • Loans will be made available at 0% interest rate;
  • Some of the funding will be made available in the form of a grant;
  • Where a business is insured, funding can be provided as bridging finance against a cession by the insurance company of the insurance proceeds.

Recipients of funding will be encouraged to have Sasria (South African Special Risk Insurance Association) or equivalent insurance cover going forward.

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We haven’t even acknowledged what happened to SMEs during lockdown. Zero support and the corporates circling like vultures. Payment holidays were never formalized. There is no formal system to go through if you lost your company because of lockdown or rung my debt you cant pay. In Ireland each citizen received €350 a week this is why their economy bounced back.

To be honest we haven’t even felt the real effects. The jump in unemployment is just the start. If you sleep at a corporate desk all day, I know this is very confusing but it really happening

Why is it necessary for the fund to to support efforts to the tune of R68 million to reopen the fire damaged hospital.

Surly there is insurance? So how does this pass the audit?? How do you pay for someone else (the insurance company) and that’s ok.

WHO IS THE INSURER? and WHY IS HE NOT PAYING??

End of comments.

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