Part two: Attend to the immediate need – look to the long-term

Kwa-Zulu Natal unrest – Part two of a two part series.

Designated as first responders, The Domino Foundation’s Disaster Relief Unit was in the vanguard of those who stepped into the breach after the civil unrest which rocked the province in July 2021. Previous calamitous events, which initially had been tackled on an ad hoc basis, had already led to the formulation of a general strategy encompassing the four phases of disaster management: mitigation; preparedness; response and recovery. In the process over the past couple of years, a partnership of five NPOs under the name of KZN Response had come together to implement whatever aspects of this strategy applied in any particular set of circumstances. The association garnered the specific strengths of City Hope Disaster Relief, The Domino Foundation, KwaZulu Natal Christian Council (KZN CC), The South African Red Cross and Zoe-Life, to tackle the effects incurred by shack fires, flooding and xenophobia-inspired violence.

Having dealt with the immediate needs during the Kwa-Zulu Natal unrest in 2021, the next pressing priority was to shift from crisis-response to a long-term recovery strategy. The first imperative was to clear the wreckage left by the violence so that an assessment of what remained intact could be made. In the first days after the violent looting sprees, Domino marshalled brigades of volunteers in five areas in and around Durban to clear the broken glass and other debris. Domino worked with DSW and Global Shapers to clean parts of Durban CBD, Umhlanga and Cornubia. The NPO’s Mandela Day initiative gathered hundreds of volunteers who served the city through clean-up efforts on 17th and 18th July, focusing on Pickering Street, Shepstone, Dr Langalibalele Dube Street, Fountain Lane and the Berea Centre.

Domino CEO, Shaun Tait, spoke the NPO’s recovery phase strategy: “Stage 1 of our strategy was the clean-up in the immediate aftermath of the unrest. The second stage is that of economic recovery. We are working together with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as with VumaFM, Tencent Africa and Domino Business, to support SMEs which were negatively impacted by the lootings. We sub-contracted our associated company, Domino Business Development (Pty) Ltd, to do the work and they built the business-recovery model. Through assessments, site visits, mentor-coaching sessions and the provision of financial grants, our goal is to get businesses back up and trading as quickly as possible to recover the livelihoods of entrepreneurs and employees.” Each week, VumaFM’s “It’s All About The Money” show features two businesses whose story during the civil unrest is shared. In the course of the programme, it is announced that the businesses are recipients of the SME grants and the following week, the appropriate actions to rehabilitate the businesses is put into action.

Ten businesses in both township and rural communities, ranging from a dental practice to SPAZAs, a funeral service to a traditional clothing and beading concern, an IT training and internet café to a bedding store and a small enterprise which sells cabbages to a construction business, have been identified as potential recipients of grants of between R20 000 and R50 000, depending on the needs of the particular business. Leader of the Domino Business team, Mickey Wilkins, explained: “The businesses were validated as being legitimate enterprises and the damage done to them and what it would involve to get them up and trading again as soon as possible were assessed,” The business owners, with the Domino Business assessors, then signed documents validating the findings, confirming the timelines and what the grant would be spent on. The team was scrupulous in its collection of the businesses’ CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) documents, their identity documents, SARS registration details and SAPS case numbers to ensure that the businesses were correctly registered Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The process continues with the release of the funds. This happens in two tranches with the first payment being the larger of the two. This permits the business to start re-establishing itself. Once invoices have been paid, stock has been ordered and security put in place (depending on the damage report) the second tranche is released. To ensure the integrity of the whole process, follow- up site visits are conducted to confirm that the repairs have been concluded according to what the owners and Domino had agreed on. Shaun continued: “Our goal is to then do follow-up mentoring sessions (if funding allows) and conduct a 3-month and 6-month follow-up survey to ensure the business is still trading and prospering.” Conversations with the business owners have revealed recurring ke y mega themes and gaps. Domino is planning workshops to address some of these. One such theme is that some businesses are asset-rich companies located in high-risk areas. Often this has meant that they are uninsurable or that the owners do not have an understanding of how insurance works. The envisaged business-training workshops would provide relevant information, network-support bases and contacts. Mickey was emphatic when he said, “We want to see these businesses build back better than they were before the looting.”

Shaun went on to explain how, over the years as The Domino Foundation’s range and scope have grown, it has developed its programmes to meet holistically the needs of individuals and communities physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually through mercy, justice and empowerment interventions. “In the early days, we were motivated by natural compassion to meet immediate needs. We have realised over the years that to provide the band-aid solution is not enough. We need to come alongside people and communities to empower them to become independent, active citizens and to flourish.”

Shaun and Mickey concurred saying that The Domino Foundation and Domino Business are very aware that there are many other deserving small and medium-sized enterprises that were adversely affected by the turmoil in July. Shaun added, “We have been very grateful to Tencent for their extremely generous demonstration of faith in these business people. We are keen to extend the project so that more enterprises can be helped, not only to re-establish themselves, but in fact to come back far better-equipped to face a future in a South Africa where the commercial climate surely will have even more challenges.”

Anyone wanting information on how they can support this initiative may contact Tarin Stevenson on 031 563 9605 or [email protected] or they can go online to make a donation at www.dominofoundation/donation