Media Statement: Mask-up for Mandela

 In Member statements

16 July 2020
For Immediate Release

18 July 2020, 11.00 for 67 minutes

This Mandela Day volunteers from community organizations affiliated to the People’s Coalition will be out in force for ’67 minutes of messaging’ (see flyer attached). Working under the banner of the Gauteng Community Organizing Working Group, the activists are acutely aware of dangers posed by COVID-19 in the townships and settlements where they live. Their main message is simple:

I protect you, you protect me

This will be conveyed through a range of media and activities, including placards, painted walls, banners, flyers, loudspeakers, walk-throughs, chains of volunteers, branded masks, social media and, importantly, conversations. See below for examples, some of which will
provide photo-opportunities. Volunteers will be wearing black armbands in memory of those who have died from COVID-19 and gender-based violence, as well as fallen heroes, such as liberation leader Nelson Mandela.

Bongani Xezwi, convener of the Working Group said:

“Thousands of people are now infected, many are suffering, some are dying. The extent of this is greater than the media realize. Today we heard about the situation in Bekkersdaal, where government offices and the police station are closed and most school principals are infected. Many shops are shut, and some drivers refuse to deliver because trucks have been hi-jacked for food.

“On the 18th we are engaging in a big awareness campaign. We have been conducting popular education since the lockdown started and we know it can work, even in a dense informal settlement like Protea South, where I am a leader.

“The government and political parties are failing people. If this was election time, there would be placards and t-shirts all over the place. They want to persuade us to vote for them, but they are not campaigning to persuade people to protect each other.

“They send mixed messages. They want us to keep 2 meters apart, but then allow taxis to be 100% full, with no distancing. They ban large gatherings but tell the schools to open, so teachers and our children get infected.

“Because we cannot trust the government, we have to do things for ourselves, as working class communities.

“But, if the government were willing to work with community-based organizations, we stand ready and able to assist. We were thanked by the Solidarity Fund for delivering thousands of their large food parcels, but, sadly, we have received no government solidarity recently.

“We know there is a risk when we go onto the streets. But we have rules for anybody who joins us: you must wear a mask, you must keep at least 1.5 meters apart, you must not be 60 years old or more, and you must not have a co-morbidity, like hypertension and diabetes.

“We are leaders and have responsibility to convince people in our communities that ‘we must protect each other – asivikelane.’”

The group’s teams of volunteers have also been delivering food, sanitizer, soap and sanitary pads in about 50 communities. This has added to their credibility, knowledge of conditions in vulnerable households, and capacity to advise on social benefits and gender-based violence, as well as give information about symptoms and what to do if infected.

Social Media:

Please check our social media pages, where we will post live photos on Mandela Day:
• Instagram: @C19Community
• Facebook: C-19 Community Organising Working Group – Gauteng

For further information, contact:
Bongani Xezwi (Protea South and convener): 0677244651
Simphiwe Zwane (Thembelihle): 072 944 8250
Lebogang Malebo (Tsakane): 071 131 6448
Tshidi Madisakwoena (Meadowlands): 084 555 8517
Kate Alexander (UJ professor): 082 332 8802

Some examples of activities:

Thembelihle. Moving off from Park Station taxi rank at 11.00 to visit all 4 sections of the settlement. Talking to people, loudspeaker, pamphlets. This follows postering and painting.

Orlando West. 13.00. At the Mandela House, 8115 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West. Unveiling the masked Mandela. Mandela gives a lead on Mandela Day, joined by volunteers with banner and placards.

Kliptown. 10.00. Single file from Mandela Square (where Mandela hid) to Walter Sisulu Square, for unveiling COVID-19 additions to Freedom Charter. This follows feeding of children.

Alexandra. COWG Team working with three other organizations in distribution of sanitary towels to young women. This followed by public education. Phone contact people for further information on these and other activities.

Tsakane. At the mall from 11.00 onwards. Popular education. This follows picketing against the re-opening of schools the day before.

Makause. 11.00. Intersection of Main Reef Road and Shamrock Road. Jampas/Cleveland

Asivikelaňeni campaign also doing mask-up popular education for their settlement on Cleveland Road, towards Cleveland Station. This all follows much activity around malls and settlements organized by Makause Covid-19 Campaign.

Nomzamo Park. 11.00. Out and about. Messaging with special emphasis on gender-based violence.

Orlando East. 11.00. Public education at Ritz and Orlando Station.

Ivory Park. 11.00. Stretch along Leboga Street, with banner on school fence. Blitzing with pamphlets. Call for closure of the school and encouraging people to Mask Up.

Klipspruit. 11.00. Asivikelane Awareness at Klipspruit Park, next to U-Save. Handing out soap to encourage hand washing.

Bramficherville. 11.00. Outside Shoprite. Young activists campaigning for Mask-Up messaging.

Protea South. 11.00. Ring of placards around the settlement.

Issued by the Community Organising Working Group of the C19 People’s Coalition

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