Various organisations from within the Muslim community of South Africa have banded together to coordinate a coherent Muslim community response to the Covid-19 pandemic. South Africa is in the first week of a national lockdown, aimed at enforcing social distancing measures in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. On Sunday, the number of coronavirus infections stood at 1187, with one death recorded in the Western Cape.
Given the immense impact the lockdown will have on all aspects of society, a multi-disciplinary task team has been assembled under the co-ordination of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and the Jamiatul Ulama of South Africa (JUSA) in consultation with Muslim organisations. Professionals, business people, experts, community activists and volunteers across the country have been deployed to give support in areas of public health, public education, political and economic.
Among the organisations are ASRI; Awqaf South Africa; Caring Women’s Forum; Africa Muslims Agency; South African National Zakah Fund; Islamic Relief South Africa; Muslim Judicial Council and the Jamiat Ulama South Africa.
“The greatest fear is that the rapid spread of the virus can affect tens of thousands of people living in vulnerable conditions; overwhelm the public health system; disrupt learning and teaching in public schools and madrassahs across the country for an extended period; and have a major impact on the viability of SMMES resulting in up to a million job losses in the country,” read a joint statement.
“The Muslim community as part of the landscape of SA society has a responsibility to positively contribute to existing preventative and curative measures that the National Government has put in place; not just in the public health sector, but also the education and economic sectors.”
Last week, various organisations who form part of this response team donated R1m in aid spending and resources to assist with the immediate priorities as announced by the President. The donations will be ploughed into the government’s solidarity fund which as a social safety net to the poor and vulnerable during the 21-day lockdown period.
“Communities that will be hit the hardest are the poor and working class. We’ve seen the middle class go to supermarkets and fill up their trolleys to prepare for the lockdown. But as the President, everyone needs to look after the poor and vulnerable,” said ASRI director Muhammad Cajee.
During the period leading to the lockdown, the Muslim ulema fraternity was also forced to make tough decisions around the closure of masajid in South Africa, which is a first for the Muslim community. While there is a prevailing sense of sadness, the bold decision has been roundly welcomed and the ulema has been lauded for their leadership on social responsibility.
“It’s the responsibility of us as individuals to follow the guidance from our government, community leaders and experts. The action of putting others are risk can place you in criminal liability.”
The response team is working province by province to ensure that distribution is carried out in coordination with authorities.
“For example, the Gauteng provincial government has established regional warehouses in the metropolitan areas and are working on a plan to use schools as local distribution centres,” Cajee explained.
“This is important because the risk of organisations individually doing their own projects means some areas could be over supported while others are neglected. It’s important that the government is able to see where the specific needs are and ensure resources are sent there.”
A crowdfunding page has been launched. For more information, visit www.tawakul.org/covid19