In this article by the Daily Maverick Citizen, it’s noted how community-led change and local action are too often stifled by the dominant accountability models. “New models of social accountability, built on trust, redistribution and horizontality rather than the usual bureaucratic checks and balances, are desperately needed,” they say.

In March 2020, when the president announced that South Africa would be going into a lockdown, a lot of uncertainty ensued. At the time I had just started working for a non-profit organisation that deals with sexual and reproductive health for adolescent girls and young women in the Klipfontein District.

By chance, I came across the Philippi East Community Action Network (CAN), as it was known at the time. I probed for more information and traced the collective to Cape Town Together on Facebook. A few days later we started our own Site C CAN with a few volunteers as a means of establishing a local, rapid response to Covid-19.

The CANs operate as a network of autonomous, neighbourhood-based groups where volunteers come together to tackle the challenges of Covid-19. These might change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, so every CAN is best placed to understand what is needed for its own neighbourhood. But operating as a collective network also allows for different forms of support, solidarity, generosity and redistribution of resources to take place across the city.

As soon as we started Site C CAN, the requests for food assistance began to come in. A lot of soup kitchens in our area were reluctant because it was not clear whether they were allowed to operate under the new lockdown regulations. We resolved to approach a few organisations within our community to explain the concept of a CAN. Most welcomed the idea and pledged to contribute to the coordination of a food relief programme.

Read the rest of this account from Mboneli Gqirana, one of the Activators who we worked with in South Africa on a series of dialogues, in the Daily Maverick Citizen.