The C19 People’s Coalition is an emerging civil society collective seeking to ensure that South Africa’s response to the Covid-19 crisis is one that is rooted in social justice and democratic principles, and recognises our duty to prioritise those who are most vulnerable, who face the pandemic with hunger, weakened immune systems and poor access to housing, health care and social safety nets.
Our rapidly growing coalition includes community structures, trade unions, informal workers’ organisations, civics, social movements, rural groups, national and provincial NGOs across all social sectors, frontline responders such as community health workers and shelters, migrants’ and refugees’ organisations, public interest law firms and faith based organisations. All have united behind the programme and demands in Call and Programme of Action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, issued on March 23rd and to date endorsed by over 200 organisations. As we develop and consolidate our structures, our coalition grows daily, making it the country’s largest civil society coalition regarding the Covid-19 crisis, even as we acknowledge other important formations that are in existence.
As our Programme of Action suggests, we believe that a national response will only be successful if it is a broad, bottom-up, public effort which recognises that poor communities cannot remain home or protect themselves without adequate shelter, water, sanitation, communication resources, basic income and nutrition. Moreover, in a society as unequal as ours, a lockdown without the provision of such basic needs alongside mass testing and information contradicts public health expertise about containing the virus, and will deepen vulnerability, not alleviate it.
Our coalition is committed to working through the lockdown towards realising a response that is rooted in equity and solidarity. We are establishing provincial structures and working groups on a range of fronts where we have expertise. We are finding ways to work which are responsible, respectful of the regulations, and which prioritise care and self-organisation. We are expanding our frontline responders’ networks, our support of neighbourhood level initiatives and collaboration between civic structures.
As we note in the Programme of Action, we recognise that government’s role in coordinating the nationwide Covid-19 action is vital. As such, we are committed to sharing our expertise and networks in the interest of fostering measures that advance equity, more transparent approaches, broad participation and community ownership of the state’s programme. We further believe that given our presence on the ground, we are well positioned to alert government’s leadership to emerging problems, undesired outcomes and make recommendations as to how shortcomings can be addressed.
We are committed to a working structure that is decentralised and democratic and organised around a project of voluntary mutual aid. We are open to work with all constituencies including government on a progressive and broad programme of action towards the provision of resources and services to our people.
Read about our emerging structure and our leadership.
Background: On March 18th 2020, the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education (TCAE) convened a meeting for civil society actors to discuss how civil society should respond to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa. Approximately 100 individuals from 50 different organisations across labour, academia and all social sectors participated. A Task Team was mandated to facilitate the initial coordination and the establishment of Working Groups. What is now the C-19 People’s Coalition has developed rapidly over the past 10 days, and continues to evolve as the context and coalition develops.