South Africans: Always quick to help

In the second week of July, we were all shocked and dismayed as a wave of violence engulfed parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The senseless loss of more than 300 lives, the destruction of infrastructure and the wholesale looting of malls, stores and warehouses left us at one of the lowest points our country has seen.

But nothing brings us together like a crisis

But as South Africans, we immediately  joined hands to reclaim our shattered neighbourhoods, rebuild our city centres and make sure that essential goods and services reached the vulnerable communities whose local infrastructure was destroyed. Just weeks after the civil unrest subsided, it’s remarkable how much has been achieved because corporations, small businesses and individuals all came together with one goal – to help.

Some volunteered their time to help clean up – sweeping up debris left in the wake of violence. Others are offering their services for free to help small businesses bounce back, including printing signage for stores and repairing the damage inside stores. Some are running soup kitchens or organising the distribution of food parcels to communities that have seen their grocery shops destroyed. Many more have donated money to the cause. In some townships, street vendors are back in business to sell what is left of their stock. Fear and anxiety are being replaced by a countrywide display of unity and possibility.

Nedbankers are doing their bit, too

Like any responsible corporate citizen, Nedbank had no hesitation in joining relief and recovery efforts. We provided more than R6,4 million to support clean-ups, humanitarian relief and infrastructure rebuilding, hoping to bring comfort to thousands of innocent citizens and small businesses in dire need.

We need to harness this unity in our search for solutions to unacceptable levels of poverty and unemployment

We’ve also partnered with the 67 CEOs Foundation and the Township Entrepreneurs Alliance in their recovery plan for businesses that have been impacted by looting and vandalism, as well as with Gift of the Givers and UNICEF to deliver financial support and on-the-ground assistance to humanitarian relief and small-business rebuilding efforts.

We leveraged our existing Cashbuild and Boxer retail partnerships to extend financial assistance to small and micro businesses that need to rent premises or equipment to continue operating, or that need construction materials to repair damaged buildings. We also distributed more than 3,000 food parcels to our employees and contractors in KwaZulu-Natal who were severely impacted by the unrest.

In some cases, colleagues of these stranded employees drove the 600 kilometres from Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal to drop off essential food packages. We also funded a community-based bakery in Pietermaritzburg to help increase the supply of essential food items in local communities, particularly old-age and frail-care homes. Many of our employees joined communities and business owners to clean up the affected areas and provide food, clothing and shelter to families. Others have generously donated to the Nedbank Relief Fund.

We need this unity to last

Nedbankers know that we’re not alone in our contribution. We’re just one group of many, and we are proud to be part of this great demonstration of the human spirit. The generosity of South Africans, whether living at home or abroad, has proved right the old Zulu saying: ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’ – ‘You are, because of others’. We need to harness this unity in our search for solutions to unacceptable levels of poverty and unemployment if we want to build a country that takes care of all its citizens.