Disaster Management Volunteers needed to Prevent Queues of Death

Issued by Bobby Stevenson, MPL
Shadow MEC for Safety and Security

The government is allowing people to line up and potentially die in “queues of death” that we have recently witnessed across the province. These queues are potential super spreaders of the virus.

We need a new strategy that can save lives by preventing the spread of this virus.

Municipalities are empowered to use disaster management volunteers in terms of chapter 7 of the Disaster Risk Management Act (Download).

The horrifying pictures of people squashed together lining up for grants, food parcels and outside shops illustrate that there is a complete lack of control, discipline and strategy. SAPS cannot enforce social distancing.

Municipalities can legally recruit disaster management volunteers from community safety and other civic organisations. The role of these disaster management volunteers is to monitor schools and protect them from vandalism. In the Eastern Cape over 90 schools have been burgled during the lockdown period.

They are further empowered to be involved in enforcing social distancing at shops, clinics and at transport interchanges.

The DA in the Eastern Cape is calling for a four E strategy to be followed, namely:
1. Engage
2. Explain
3. Encourage
4. Enforce

The first three of which can be handled by the volunteers, while the fourth ‘e’, enforce, needs to be left to SAPS as these volunteers will not have that power.

I have written to Cogta MEC, Mr. Xolile Nqatha, and I have also raised this matter with the Democratic Alliance Eastern Cape ADAC (Association of Democratic Alliance Councillors) Chair, Marina van Zyl, to request councillors take this matter up through the province.

This virus is an invisible enemy, we are in a war-like situation. In such a crisis, we need to call up our reserve forces to combat this virus so that we can save lives.

Government alone cannot deal with this virus, there needs to be partnerships with community structures, including disaster management volunteers, peace officers, as well as other structures such as neighbourhood watches, rural safety patrollers, and other community safety organisations.

In the City of Cape Town over 400 disaster management volunteers are in operation, which have all been recruited from community structures. Municipalities in the Eastern Cape need to urgently follow suit.

Recruiting disaster management volunteers will assist SAPS in ensuring social distancing and help to put an end to the queues of death.

This is a cost-effective force multiplier.