SEF Safari – a tour through the Inner City

Through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, a Social Employment Fund (SEF) has been established as part of the social economy strategy of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC). The fund is managed by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The fund supports NGO’s/ NPC’s to create work that serves the common good in communities.

On Wednesday 10 May, the Johannesburg Inner City Partnership (JICP) hosted representatives from The Presidency, the IDC, the DTIC, journalists and NGO partners on a tour of 11 out of 12 Social Employment Fund (SEF) projects currently underway.

Introductions were made at the historic Rand Club. JICP CEO David van Niekerk explained how the JICP created a special purpose vehicle, JICSEP to manage the SEF project. Through JICSEP, the JICP has been able to coordinate with 12 NGO partners to create just over 1600 community-based work opportunities.

From Rand Club, the SEF Safari set off on foot to Ernest Oppenheimer Park.

The park is home to Hoop Mania, a basketball initiative by Boundless City. Through SEF funding, Boundless City has started maintenance on the basketball court and have plans to add new public art. By cleaning the area surrounding the park and providing safety ambassadors, the park is being better utilised. The importance of this programme and ensuring that residents have a place where they can meet and play basketball was reiterated by Taona Mawere who said that playing basketball gave him and his friends a safe space to go after school. It taught them discipline, accountability and also creates a strong sense of community.

Boundless City also runs an after-school programme in the Ansteys Building, where they set up and run a library for residents. SEF participants help with homework after school from Monday to Thursday. Friday’s are for art, and students are currently working on woven art pieces. 

Boundless City has connected with another SEF partner The Literary District. Through this connection, children in the Anstey’s building and children who attend the Literary District storytelling sessions are making the most of activities run by both organisations. 

In addition to storytelling, The Literary District SEF team have started a free library in Soweto and Alexandra and even planted trees in Library Gardens as part of Earth Day. SEF participants have been trained and are now responsible for the care and maintenance of the newly planted trees. 

From Ernest Oppenheimer Park, the Safari jumped onto a City Sightseeing Red Bus and headed North to Hillbrow.

Our next stop was the Mould Empower Serve (MES) Assessment Centre where we were greeted by Dalu Cele and the joyous team from Clean City SA. Apart from making an impact in the ongoing ‘War on Waste’ in the Inner City, SEF participants are receiving training from Pikitup to improve their employability and are working with Pikitup to identify and clear illegal dumping sites. Regular street cleaning is making a huge difference for small retailers and business owners in the Inner City.

We then moved to the BG Alexander Estate Astroturf (Managed by Madulammoho Social Housing in partnership with MES) where Zaine Da Silva from Sport for Social Change Network (SSCN) introduced us to a graduate of the Egolisquash youth development programme, a highly competent and confident young man, Sandile Mthiyane.

Mthiyane told the group of 40 that five years ago he would not have been able to stand in front of a group and speak with such confidence. Through the after-school programmes, SSCN and its partners are not only teaching sports like street racket, squash, skateboarding and boxing but also offer gardening, lifeskills and chess. Feedback from parents is that their kids are more respectful, responsible and disciplined.

Our host Leona Pienaar, CEO of MES explained how their SEF participants are working across the MES facilities. MES is a diversified NPO that drives essential social change to prevent and minimise the impact of homelessness through its modular service offering focused on the welfare of inner-city communities. MES focus on 5 target groups: Pre-school, School-going children, School Leaving Youth, Youth & Adults & Risk and Families at Risk. SEF volunteers are incorporated in all services. The Impilo Shelter team conducted seven outreach activations in the month of April. Services to the community included glucose and blood pressure tests, weight monitoring, TB and HIV screening and related social services. Sexual health pamphlets and condoms were also distributed.

MES participants continue to help with daily admin including database maintenance, assistance with CV writing and preparation for job interviews. The ECD centres continue to provide daily meals and early childhood education where the SEF volunteers play a supportive role.

Our next destination was Lorentzville East of Johannesburg, home to Water for the Future (WFTF). Romy Stander, Sipho Makhane, Mpho Khoza and Mbali Dlamini welcomed everyone to their new office space kindly sponsored by their neighbours, Nandos.

Water for the Future is dedicated to creating a sustainable green economy centred around the Jukskei River.
River ban/ Riparian zone clean-ups result in waste being recycled and repurposed as well as alien invasive plants being turned into sellable firewood and woodchips for gardening. After months of sorting and drying, WFTF will be ready to sell their products, including screens made from weaving suitable branches, at the First Sunday Market at Victoria Yards on the 4th of June.

Apart from wood products, WFTF is researching and developing plans around growing oyster mushrooms and medicinal plants in consultation with local Sangomas. New indigenous trees are being planted thanks to generous donations by Bloomberg Corporate Philanthropy Africa.

Along with this project’s positive impact on the environment, participants are also growing their skills and confidence. Team leaders are shining as they manage smaller groups, develop skills like handling tools of the trade and identifying different plant species. Mental health awareness is a big part of this project, and participants begin their two mornings a week under the guidance of Sbu Hadebe, a qualified and talented drama therapist who makes use of applied drama and theatre skills concentrating on the education of communities for social wellbeing to shift mindsets, improve morale and generally get the team into a good mood for the day!

Under the guidance of Mary Gillet-de Klerk, the Johannesburg Homelessness Network (JHN) team has started seven vegetable gardens across Johannesburg. It is undeniable that everyone participating in SEF programmes is hugely benefitting from the income and skills development provided by this initiative. In the case of the JHN, the benefits truly change people’s lives. By growing vegetables on privately owned vacant land, JHN has been able to place homeless people in shelters, connect them with auxiliary social workers, reunite family members and develop the skills that have resulted in some participants being hired to work in nearby gardens.

Just as JICP is coordinating our 12 NGO partners via JICSEP, the Makers Valley Partnership (MVP) is coordinating with a number of NGOs within the local community to make up their SEF numbers.

Katlego Dikobe from MVP explained how Makers Valley Farm is collaborating with the Johannesburg Homelessness Network and Water for the Future on a new site. Love Our City Klean (LOCK) is partnering with the SEF Urban Rangers and Makers Valley Farm to address illegal dumping hotspots and ultimately turn them into seating areas and gardens. Quick n Wash and Sobae are partnering to conduct water reduction and food-rescuing workshops. Bertrams Residents Movement (BRM) and the Urban Rangers are partnering to tackle waste management. Xquizified is partnering with Swyft Labs to conduct clothing upcycling classes. Victoria Yards Farm, Makers Valley Farm and The People’s Pantry are partnering to provide more produce to the community. Through SEF, MVP have been able to recruit a marketing and communications person, who has worked with various media to spread the word about SEF. The latest blog in conjunction with Joburg Post gives more details about the partnerships above.

As the bus moved through the Inner City, it was clear to see that some areas were being well managed, while others were not. This is where Nonkululeko Hadebe from Urban Space Management explained that the City Improvement Districts they manage have to operate on very tight budgets, which means limited resources on the ground. With the inclusion of SEF participants, the CIDs are able to create 374 work opportunities. The additional resource means that more streets are being cleaned and weeded, illegal posters are removed and small maintenance jobs are carried out on broken pavements. The additional compliment has allowed City Improvement District to clean and maintain additional streets/blocks that were previously neglected and add value to residents who could not in the past afford to be part of City Improvement Districts.

Although we were not able to visit Dlala Nje during the tour, we were joined by Grant Ngcobo who grew up in Hillbrow and was one of the youngsters who spent his time at the Dlala Nje community centre when it launched in 2012. Eleven years later, Grant is employed full-time at Dlala Nje and runs their SEF programme. Dlala Nje means ‘just play’ in isiZulu, and the two Dlala Nje community centres allow young children and teens to learn and play in a safe space. Dlala Nje funds its community centres through its Inner City tours. Participants who used to volunteer their time at the community centres are now receiving a stipend through SEF, and the teen centre has been able to initiate a sewing project where teens are making bags that they are selling. One of the biggest success stories of SEF is that it has made participants more employable, and often when someone leaves the programme it is because they have secured full-time employment elsewhere.

Another venue we were not able to visit on the day was Constitution Hill. Silindokuhle Mchunu explained how rewarding it has been to see participants discover new passions and develop new interests. Apart from the general maintenance, landscaping and cleaning around ConHIll, SEF participants are being assisted with mock interviews and CV writing. This is proving to be very successful as participants are also leaving SEF to pursue full-time employment.

Our 12th NGO partner Downtown Music Hub was not able to join our SEF Safari on the day. Their Music in Schools programme is not only providing musicians with much-needed income but also exposing learners to the joys of music in schools where resources are limited and music subjects are not always included in the curriculum. Through these classes, learners are exposed to different genres of music, different instruments and the basics of rhythm, melody, and harmony through fun and interactive games. The Music in Schools programme has highlighted the need for more instruments to be made available to learners. DTMH has put out a request to schools and individuals for donations of musical instruments for this initiative.

For more information about the JICP and SEF, please contact