Gauteng Together applauds the establishment of over 60 community action networks (CANs) across the province, addressing the COVID-19 crisis by providing food and social support to those in need.

Among the major areas where CANs have been set up are Diepsloot, Zandspruit, Fourways, Sandton, Observatory, Johannesburg Inner City, Moroka, Naledi, Lenasia, Ennerdale, Thokoza, Vosloorus, Stretford (Orange Farm) and Olievenhoutbosch.

The CANs initiative was launched by Gauteng Together and Premier David Makhura three weeks ago to mobilise communities to self-activate and address the negative social impact of the pandemic.

Diricilla Naidoo, representing Gauteng Together, said that the response from ordinary people has been overwhelming. “It is a good indicator that communities see the value in setting up sustainable networks to deal with food insecurity and the impact of the virus.

“Most of the CANs have been established in Johannesburg. Our plan over next few weeks is to broaden the network to Sedibeng and the West Rand, which are the two poorest regions in the province, as well as to Tshwane and Ekurhuleni,” she added.

Nhlanhla Lucky Nkosi, also from Gauteng Together, said that many of the CANs have hit the road running. “The Inner City Can has mapped the needs of the area and already has a list of more than 2 000 people who require help.

“The Fourways CAN and several others have chosen to link up with NGOs, aid organisations and fellow CANs to assist. Neighbourhoods in Gallo Manor, Sandown and Wendywood have been mobilised to contribute towards grocery collection drives.

“The Diepsloot CAN has identified families in need of educational materials for children and reading lessons are being arranged via video,” said Nkosi.

“Meanwhile, the Lenasia CAN has been working with the Joburg Region G: Disaster Management Team and local organisations to identify where and how food hampers must be delivered.”

Nkosi said despite the progress, CANs are currently not able to meet all the needs of communities in the province as they are neighbourhood establishments that have limited capacity and resources.

Neeshan Balton, speaking on behalf of Gauteng Together, said that it has been a “phenomenal achievement to have over 60 CANs established in just three weeks, but the real work starts now”.

“CANs established more recently will have to consolidate their volunteer base very quickly and begin to assist communities, even if it is on a small scale at first,” he said.

“Over the next few weeks, government’s stimulus package and the slight easing of lockdown restrictions will go some way towards kick-starting the economy. However, this will not be sufficient to solve all the problems as the needs far outweigh these measures,” he explained.

While South African citizens may have access to the grant system, even increased grants over the next six months may not stave off hunger for those suddenly unemployed or who unable to earn through the informal sector. Poverty-stricken foreign nationals who cannot apply for benefits also are being hard hit.

Balton called on government to provide a clear policy directive on how it aims to co-ordinate food distribution efforts in partnership with aid organisations and grassroots initiatives such as Gauteng Together

He also urged more people in Gauteng to heed the call to activate CANs so that structures across a wider base of neighbourhoods can do their bit.

* Gauteng Together encourages people interested in either setting up a CAN or volunteering to serve in an existing CAN to visit and register.

Issued by Gauteng Together

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