23February

Time for a new order

As much as Covid-19 has impacted society as a whole, it has also been a particularly difficult time for the nonprofit sector. Many organisations have closed, let staff go, and downscaled their activities and programmes. Dr Russell Ally, Chairperson, Inyathelo Board of Trustees, says that it is time for a new order.

Time for a new order

We are living through one of the greatest crises we will ever experience in our lifetimes. We must never forget the devastating impact that the global Covid-19 pandemic is having on society, with the enormous disruption it is causing and the tragic loss of life. 

Most of us know a friend or family member who has succumbed to Covid-19, and I extend my condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

In the midst of this turmoil, it is helpful to be reminded of Einstein’s observation that in every great crisis there is also a great opportunity. So, while the pandemic has exposed fault lines globally, nationally and at a community level, it has also shown our adaptability and resilience. It has helped us to forge new bonds of solidarity across our divided societies.

What has made Covid-19 so deadly is that it preys on the most vulnerable in our society, particularly those with co-morbidities and underlying preconditions.

This is such a cruel metaphor for our society because inequality, poverty and gender-based violence are all co-morbidities that exacerbate the myriad challenges that we need to overcome if we want to create a more caring and inclusive society. In the same way that the pandemic preys on our human frailties, it also preys on the underlying conditions in society.

If we are going to learn anything from Covid-19, at its most fundamental level it is about reimagining and remaking our world. It is the realisation that these inequalities are unsustainable. Not only are they a sore blight on our society, not only do they cause untold harm on the most vulnerable in our society, but they are also a painful reminder of our past.

We cannot only respond to Covid-19 by developing vaccines and breakthrough medical interventions; we must also develop new policies on how we treat the social ills in our society.

Yes, we are resilient and we will in all likelihood survive Covid-19, but if we were a more equal society, we would have transitioned faster and better and emerged a stronger community. But as things stand, we go into the future with so many uncertainties, carrying many wounds and scars that will take generations to heal.

Sector under siege

As much as Covid-19 has impacted society as a whole, it has also been a particularly difficult time for the nonprofit sector. Many organisations have closed, let staff go, and downscaled their activities and programmes. This in turn has weakened the ability of people to respond to the crisis, because the nonprofit sector and community-based organisations often are the first line of defence for many vulnerable communities in a period of disaster. For many therefore, this first line of defence itself has been removed.

Inyathelo is in the very fortunate position that it is still able to operate despite these very difficult conditions. The organisation views itself as having a duty and responsibility not only to survive, but also to be a resource for civil society. Inyathelo wants to continue to be a hub for the sector, making its experience, expertise and resources available to civil society. The organisation has the potential not only to support nonprofits and other institutions, but also to contribute to a revival of the sector and, together with its partners, to rethink and reimagine what the civil society sector can look like despite the current harsh reality of a global pandemic.

It is evident that the world as we knew it will never be the same. We speak about a ‘new normal’ emerging, or ‘business unusual’ as the new reality, and this is probably true. But we need to think beyond these catch-all phrases and start boldly reimagining a new world, and a new way of living in this world.

The danger of these glib descriptions is that they can easily continue to conceal the inequalities that exist. Instead, we now need to be bold enough to think beyond the ‘new normal’ and embrace a new way of living in which inclusivity, equality, dignity and the sanctity of life are valued.


This article was first published in Inyathelo's 2020/2021 Annual Report.