Santam has partnered with municipalities for over a decade to strengthen municipal disaster management
and build more resilient communities in South Africa. The Partnership for Risk and Resilience (P4RR) has
become increasingly relevant as the surge in disasters due to shifting climate patterns, the Covid-19 pandemic
and heightened social tensions in South Africa has placed increased pressure on disaster management.
Santam’s partnership with the Capricorn District Municipality illustrates what is possible when multiple
stakeholders come together towards a common purpose in this truly collaborative and impactful initiative.
In 2012, Santam began to partner with municipalities in building community resilience and capabilities for managing disasters. It is funded by the Emthunzini Community Trust, corporate social investment (CSI) funds and attracts resources from other parts of Santam’s business.
Over ten years of the programme, Santam has supported 82 municipalities across the country. Santam has trained over 400 people in firefighting, disaster management and related courses, and reached more than 17 000 with its disaster awareness campaigns. An estimated 12.5 million vulnerable people have been supported in some way by the programme.
Disaster risk management in South Africa
Disaster risk management in South Africa is a public function that extends across the three spheres of government and across departments. While the Department of Cooperative Governance is responsible for coordinating disaster risk management, the function is largely decentralised to municipalities. As such, all municipalities are required to include disaster management in their integrated development plans (IDPs). The reality, however, is that they have inadequate capacity due to limited resources dedicated to this function.
Partnership with Capricorn District Municipality: community awareness and adapting to shifting weather patterns
Santam began working with Capricorn Municipality in 2021. The three-year partnership is framed by a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Santam and the district municipality. Thereafter, a joint steering committee, on which Santam and various municipal and partnership stakeholders sit, and which drives the work programme, has been created.
Santam is not prescriptive as to interventions but instead assesses the needs and priorities as put forward by the municipalities within the framework of what interventions it is able to support.
According to Lebogang Mosotho, Capricorn disaster management representative and key stakeholder in the partnership, “Interventions planned in Capricorn were identified based on its risk profile and longstanding needs that the municipality has not been able to address due to lack of funding. ” They are focused on training and equipment for managing disaster events as well creating public awareness and community resilience around disasters.
Climate change is bringing about weather-related disasters that are not typical of the risk profile of the dry regions of Limpopo. Although equipped and experienced in handling drought-related disasters, Capricorn required additional support to deal with the flooding brought about by Cyclone Eloise in January 2022. It was of
enormous value to have a partner like Santam who was able to step in quickly and provide this.
P4RR is creating disaster awareness by educating communities on risks and ways to reduce their vulnerability. Awareness raising has included innovative community radio initiatives, awareness billboards and school-based interventions, such as debates and essay competitions.
Risk and safety assessments at special needs schools
Safety precautions at special needs schools require extra attention because they must consider the range of disabilities that might prevent learners from being able to protect themselves and respond appropriately in emergencies. In partnership with Santam, the Department of Basic Education and the National Disaster Management Centre, Capricorn Fire Services conducted risk assessments of fourteen special needs schools in Capricorn, Limpopo. Based on these, Santam and these partners have begun to work with the schools to address gaps and assist with improving their safety and compliance standings.
Educating and empowering children on risk reduction is a key component of ensuring their safety. The P4RR partners are doing this through interschool disaster risk reduction-based storytelling and debating competitions. Engaging children through these creative mediums is a fun and impactful way for them to learn about safety and risk reduction.
Attributes of a strong partnership
Many factors have contributed to the progress of the P4RR programme in Capricorn District Municipality to date. For the most part, they are not merely coincidental, but rather by design and a culmination of years of experience working with municipalities in disaster management.
The value of shared value
Because the programme is so completely aligned to the business it does not have to fight for relevance in the company. The intended outcomes of the programme are in the interests of communities and Santam’s business simultaneously – which, as per the philosophy of shared value, are viewed by Santam as mutually dependent.
The shared value of the programme is fully recognised and bought into by Santam’s leadership and the Emthunzini Community Trust board. As a result, the programme is appropriately supported and capacitated, and has been for an extended period. This approach to the P4RR programme is the cornerstone of its success.
Building internal (corporate) expertise around a single programme over time
A trend in international corporate philanthropy is for companies to focus their efforts in fewer development sectors and support fewer programmes, but more intensively. In South Africa, companies still tend to spread their CSI resources across multiple development sectors. Furthermore, many invest in multiple projects within these
sectors even when they have little or no connection to the core business. As a result, companies don’t become fully invested in the programmes they support and thus don’t enjoy the benefits of building deep experience and know-how around any programme or developmental sector.
Santam is one of South Africa’s outliers in this regard. It has identified a single development sector, in which there is a huge need, and that has strong overlaps with its core business. Santam has channelled most of its socio-economic development and other (including stakeholder relations) resources into the programme. It is also able
draw on the skills and expertise within Santam.
The programme is also well known and understood by most in the business. According to CSI Manager at Santam, Tersia Mdunge, “Santam leadership has confidence in the programme – they know and understand it because they’ve been focused on it for so long.” Santam has thus built capacity around the programme by staffing it with appropriately skilled people who have subject knowledge and understand the operational context of the intervention on a deep level. This is important especially when partnering with government – which is complex, not least politically – but also in terms of processes, structures and regulations. Dr Moses Khangale, Santam’s manager of stakeholder programmes, believes that the team’s understanding of both the local government and disaster management landscapes contributes significantly in the rollout of the P4RR programme.
There is thus enough trust internally that decision-making around the programme is highly decentralised. This enables the Santam P4RR team to be agile and responsive in a way that is essential in disaster management. Interviews with key stakeholders in the sector echoed this sentiment. Former Managing Director of the Fire
Protection Association of South Africa Lloyd Phethlu says of P4RR, “The programme is well known and sought after in the sector – they are known for being responsive and predictive.”
Appropriate selection of municipal partners is essential for the success of the partnership
According to Dr Khangale, “… working with a functional municipality and having dedicated disaster management and fire services champions is critical for the success of the programme.” In the case of Capricorn, Suzan Thobela, project coordinator for stakeholder relations at Santam says, “Capricorn was positioned to deliver. They are an open-minded group of people – when you give them an idea they can develop it and take it to the next level. This makes all the difference.” Interviews with Lebogang Mosotho and Chief Fire Officer of Capricorn Fire Services Wynand Els, two of Capricorn’s champions, revealed their determination and enthusiasm to augment the district’s resources through partnerships such as the P4RR one with Santam.
Strong corporate involvement
Santam has strong ownership of the project and is actively driving it by sitting on the joint working committees of each partnership. They spend time with the municipalities. “We discuss and implement collaboratively, we solve the problems together,” says Dr Khangale.
Establishing frameworks that govern the partnerships and clearly outline roles and responsibilities contributes to trust between parties
“Also making us more agile is the systems we set up. The joint steering committee, for example, lays the basis for engagement and simplifies the processes”, says Dr Khangale. Doing this also sets the tone for transparent and open communication. “I know I can trust what [Santam] says, they do what they say. When you work with people who are true to their word and who also give you the freedom and trust that you can execute, you don’t want to disappoint them, you go the extra mile,” says Lebogang.
Tersia Mdunge | Corporate Social Investment Manager