Following the emergence of Covid-19, the Solidarity Fund was created as a platform that brought together the private and public sectors, as well as labour and civil society to unify South Africans. Solidarity Fund CEO, Tandi Nzimande, shares indispensable learnings gleaned from her journey.
Its existence as a public benefit organisation (PBO) with a specific mandate to provide humanitarian relief and mobilise South Africans against the novel coronavirus, was unprecedented. Now, over a year and half after its establishment, the success of its model suggests that it could help to alleviate a broader range of socioeconomic challenges.
This is the view of Tandi Nzimande, CEO of the Solidarity Fund, who took over the reins from her predecessor in October 2020. Nzimande is a chartered accountant with a background as a corporate financial adviser, chief financial officer, and business owner. In a recent discussion with journalist Bruce Whitfield, she shared her perspective on the future of the Solidarity Fund as well as valuable insights gained from managing one of the country’s first rapid response platforms.
The interview formed part of the PSG Think Big webinar series, a digital dialogues initiative that features high-profile personalities, who discuss burning issues South Africans face. The series provides independent insights, prompting listeners to form their own opinion on pertinent topics.
“One reality that the progress of the Solidarity Fund has brought to the fore, is the power of collaboration. My hope is that we as South Africans will see this as an important lesson and realise that we can apply the same model and mindset to issues such as hunger, poverty, unemployment, and the water crisis. In this way, the Solidarity Fund can be used as a template for future impactful initiatives,” Nzimande asserted.
Nzimande cautioned that while there’s inevitable difficulties involved with forging relationships between sectors and building on those connections; the results often attained from a collaborative approach far outweigh such difficulties. For her, one of the Solidarity Fund’s greatest accomplishments was providing a platform for a diverse group of voices. She maintains that effective solutions to South Africa’s challenges will not come from one sector alone but will arise from the collective.
In her conversation with Whitfield, Nzimande referenced the success of the Solidarity Fund’s counterpart, Business for South Africa (B4SA). B4SA is an alliance of South African volunteers working in partnership with government, the corporate world and other social partners to combat the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and expedite the vaccine rollout. She also made mention of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative including the Youth Employment Service (YES), which calls on business to support government in creating work experience for South African youth.
“Platforms such as B4SA, SAYouth.mobi and other similar models will become a steadfast part of South African society simply because the need for them exists in a very real way. What we have learnt from the Solidarity Fund is that we cannot operate in silos. Corporate South Africa, the governmental sector, civil society and labour need to come together and work towards a common goal – that’s when we will see the best version of ourselves as a nation,” Nzimande expanded.
For Nzimande, the success of the Solidarity Fund can be largely attributed to its single-minded purpose. At its inception, it was given a specific mandate and it set out to achieve those objectives systemically. During the period of civil unrest that occurred throughout parts of South Africa in July, its mandate was extended to help those affected by the riots. As before, the Solidarity Fund acted decisively and resolved itself to tackling the issues at hand.
For Nzimande, this level of focus is at the heart of the milestones that the Fund has achieved. “We need to take a targeted approach to addressing the socioeconomic challenges we face as a country. We stand to lose impact when the purpose is diffused,” she explained.
The road has not been easy for Nzimande, as CEO of the Fund. In her talk, she emphasised the increased pressure that corruption, tender fraud, and bribery involving matters related to Covid-19, put on the Solidarity Fund. For her, it was a problem that was solved by transparency. The Fund has established a tradition of issuing detailed reports on its website that outline its activities and contributions – an essential reminder that South African money is being well spent.
Nzimande concluded her talk by emphasising the power of individual choice: “In times of hopelessness and despair, we need to recognise our individual power to make a difference as family members, colleagues, associates and citizens. Amongst the very poor, there is a great deal of sharing and support. Between you and I, we can do something in our individual capacities to help our fellow South Africans.”
PSG Group Financial Manager, Gustaaf Kruger rounded off the dialogue by thanking Nzimande for her contribution to the country, lauding the PBO as an example of a uniquely South African collaboration. “The Solidarity Fund has showed us what we are capable of and what is possible when we work together as a country. United, let us take these valuable lessons forward as we look to recover the economy and work towards a prosperous future,” he concluded.