Some of South Africa’s largest companies have pledged millions of rands to help fund a well-known charity in response to the deadly floods, highlighting the government’s shortcomings when it comes to managing and delivering aid.
The Gift of the Givers has come to the aid of those affected by floods and landslides that have washed away roads, bridges and thousands of homes in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere last month. His efforts were praised in the local press and on social media, followed by an influx of donations.
More than 60 firms, including Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., were among those who intervened. The charity’s leading role is a testament to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s challenge to convincing the public of his administration’s intentions to fight corruption, which became widespread during the nine-year rule of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
Trust in Gift of the Givers is not “what was achieved overnight,” its founder Imtiaz Suliman said in an interview. “People have seen our actions over the last 30 years, but they’ve gotten more attention during Covid.”
During the pandemic, the charity assisted more than 200 hospitals by sending personal protective equipment and locally produced respirators, funded sorting tents and set up testing centers. The government’s reaction was overshadowed by revelations that billions of rands had been wasted, a liaison contract was signed with close associates of the then health minister, and senior officials in central Gauteng benefited from the procurement.
Ramaphosa acknowledged that the government was facing a lack of trust, enlisted an independent organization to help manage public funds allocated to flood relief, and ordered a real-time verification of spending.
“It is a great source of shame that when this catastrophe occurred, the most heated public debate was around the fear that the resources allocated to respond to this catastrophe would be misappropriated or wasted,” he told lawmakers last month.
According to Suliman, Gift of the Givers maintains an excellent relationship with the government, which has many good people who want to make a positive contribution to the need.
“Their systems do not allow us to respond urgently,” he said. “They have the right intentions, but they have the wrong system.”
Africa’s largest independent humanitarian organization Gift of the Givers received its first financial support from South African corporations in 2017 when a deadly storm hit Cape Town and its environs. Donors are given audited financial statements, reports and photos, which has helped build trust in the organization, Suliman said.
Dr. Suliman founded a charity on the instructions of a spiritual leader he met three decades ago while visiting Istanbul to “unconditionally serve the people.” Since then, it has distributed 4.5 billion rand ($ 281 million) in aid to 45 countries, he said.
In addition to providing assistance in Africa, it has provided humanitarian assistance to those affected by the wars in Bosnia and Afghanistan, as well as the earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan. Of the nearly 500 full-time staff, about two-thirds are currently in Syrian hospitals and also working with volunteers in Ukraine.
“For us to save one life is to save all humanity,” Suliman said. “This is our philosophy.”
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