Resource Guide: Advice, hotlines and help to get us through the Covid-19 pandemic with our health and rights intact

Resource Guide: Advice, hotlines and help to get us through the Covid-19 pandemic with our health and rights intact
epaselect epa08433253 People stand in a queue in at sunrise to wait for food during a food handout by Meals SA during the national lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 20 May 2020. According to local sources, some 11,000 food packages where handed out. Food insecurity is one of the main issues facing the country since the start of the lockdown, which was implemented on 30 April 2020. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

Here is a selection of organisations, hotlines and sources of information and data — operated mostly by volunteers doing their best to assist during and after lockdown. It is not an exhaustive list, but it is a start and we will continue to update it.

A lot has changed in the more than 150 days since South Africa went into lockdown. This resource guide provides some direction in navigating which civil society organisations are providing support and which websites and hotlines are giving reliable and relevant information on rights during the lockdown. In addition, it lists where to find help and information about health, education material, statistics and grants or relief —and  how to report abuses of power.

Useful websites and hotlines for information and reporting on injustice

Knowing, and protecting, rights under the State of Disaster and lockdown

Access to the latest regulations: The latest lockdown regulations, directions and disaster management guidelines, as well as the Disaster Management Act, can all be found on one page here.

Understanding rights during a lockdown: Lawyers for Human Rights has created guides on rights during lockdown, with some focused on explaining the rights of specific groups such as essential workers and children.

The pandemic, technology and rights: The Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education has published an illustrated guide to better explain the interplay of rights, technology and the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reporting the abuse of rights: The South  African Human Rights Commission continues to monitor human rights abuses during the pandemic and can be contacted for the lodging of a complaint, for yourself or on behalf of others, against any security forces for misconduct.

A poster explaining how to report incidents of xenophobia in South Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim is to keep a record of incidents in order to monitor threats and violence and to hold government to account. (Photo: Xenowatch)

Below is a summary of the contact details of various legal service providers that have continued providing support under the lockdown:

A number of organisations offering legal services have vowed to stay open during the lockdown. However they operate virtually. This poster provides information on which services they can offer currently. (Source: Equal Education Law Centre)

Health and help during a pandemic in South Africa

The Scientists Collective: Maverick Citizen has been publishing a series of expert advisories written by some of South Africa’s leading medical scientists and academics, including some members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19. The advisories aim to give practical advice grounded in the latest science on Covid-19. Guides published so far:

National Institute for Communicable Diseases: This website has answers to the most basic questions about Covid-19 in South Africa.

Useful guides:

Free professional mental health services: Fear, anxiety, apprehension and sadness are understandable states of mind in the circumstances. You don’t have to face them on your own.

  • National Medical Frontliners Counselling 24-hour Hotline (WhatsApp): 079 513 7015
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (24 hour): 0800 456 789 (tel); 31393 (sms)
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group suicide crisis line (24 hour): 0800 567 567
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (WhatsApp support): 076 882 2775
  • Lifeline Crisis (24 hour): 0861 322 322
  • Lifeline Counselling (WhatsApp): 065 989 9238
  • Gift of the Givers toll-free careline: 0800 786 786
  • Substance Use & Abuse hotline: 0800 121 314

Civil society organisations providing support

These organisations were established to deal specifically with issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. This is not an exhaustive list.

Community Action Networks (CANs)

These networks have sprung up in Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape since the start of lockdown. The aim is to connect people in a neighbourhood to one another so that they can draw on the strengths and energy of others nearby. There are already more than 100 in Gauteng and 170 in Cape Town.

CANs can then link up with others in a wider area – for instance, in Cape Town, the Gugulethu CAN and Sea Point CAN have linked to share resources. CANs can be started by anyone, anywhere, and the focus can be shaped to the needs and resources of residents.

See where CANs are in the Western Cape and sign up or start your own. Cape Town Together has created a page dedicated to helpful CAN resources.

Sign up or start your own CAN in Gauteng.

C-19 Coalition

The C-19 Coalition is a collection of nearly 300 trade unions, civic organisations, faith-based organisations, community structures and organisations of informal workers. The coalition’s mission is to advocate for the rights and well-being of the most vulnerable in our unequal society, and to make sure safety measures are shared equitably.

Any organisation that subscribes to its founding statement and principles can join one of the nearly 20 working groups, and anyone can join the online People’s Assemblies. At these sessions, activist working groups present and debate policy briefs and proposals. The website has a wealth of information about how to organise for action during the pandemic.


Communications professionals can join the network as a communications volunteer — to link up with the government and others in creating and distributing accurate, reliable information about Covid-19 in South Africa.

Support for survivors of gender-based violence

The government has set up hotlines for people who are targets of gender-based violence during the lockdown. The GBV command centre can be called on 0800 428 428 or contacted via Skype (HELPMEGBV). The toll-free number is *120*7867#.

Thuthuzela Care Centres have remained open during lockdown. These centres are based in 54 hospitals across South Africa to provide forensic and medical services to rape survivors as an emergency service in the 72 hours immediately after the rape.

All Thuthuzela Care Centres remain open during South Africa’s lockdown to provide essential services such as medical care, trauma counselling and support to rape survivors. (Photo: Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust)

Information and support for heading back to work

When can and should you go back to work after testing positive for Covid-19? Should you be re-tested? What if you are still showing symptoms after 14 days? The National Institute of Communicable Diseases answers these questions and more in a Q&A on returning to work in South Africa.

The Casual Workers’ Advice Office has a guide to workers’ rights under lockdown, as well as the state regulations that outline health and safety measures for the workplace, the application for Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme and worker rights in refusing to work if there is a Covid-19 risk.

Lawyers for Human Rights has a guide on all there is to know about the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme.

Grant and food parcel information and applications

Social grants: This page gives information on the social relief of distress grant, social relief of distress food parcels and other grant payments during lockdown. It has details on who can apply and how to apply.

Civil society organisations distributing food parcels: Section27 has put together a list of organisations, areas in which they operate and how to contact them.

Financial assistance to business from government: A summary of all the financial assistance the government is offering to business can be found here. It includes information on who qualifies and how to apply.

The specific assistance is:

. Debt Relief Finance Scheme

.   Restructuring of SEFA-funded loans

.   Business Growth Resilience Facility

.   Spaza Support Scheme

.   Agricultural Disaster Support Fund

.   Tourism Relief Fund

.   Tax Measures

.   Loans

Unemployment Insurance Fund and TERS: This page is a succinct summary of who qualifies and how to apply, and has a frequently-asked-questions section.

The Covid-19 Fund Finder tool has been developed by a group of communication and business experts to help companies refine their search for applicable funding in less than a minute.

Reporting abuse of power

SAPS: When faced with police corruption, abuse of power or threat of arrest, it is crucial to know what your rights are. Lawyers for Human Rights has put together a guide on the powers and obligations of law enforcement during the lockdown.

A series produced by Corruption Watch explains how to recognise police corruption and abuse of power, what your rights are in these situations and what to do. Find the brochures here.

To report a police officer’s misconduct, file the complaint with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate. Below are the provincial contact details:

Lawyers for Human Rights has compiled a guide on rights and police and military action during lockdown. At the end of the guide are contact details for the Military Ombud and Independent Police Investigative Directorate, with whom citizens can lay complaints. (Photo: Lawyers for Human Rights)

To report a traffic officer’s misconduct, call the National Traffic Call Centre on 0861 400 800. This number can also be used to report bad driving and unsafe vehicles.

SANDF: To report a soldier’s misconduct, file a complaint at your nearest police station or contact the military ombudsman. These are the nationwide numbers: 076 609 2255, 012 676 3818, 081 512. 4792, 086 431 773

Lawyers for Human Rights writes: “Collins Khosa died after an altercation with the SANDF and the JMPD during the lockdown. The Khosa judgment, which was handed down on 15 May, clarifies that law enforcement have to act within the bounds of the law even in a state of disaster and that they should be held accountable for their actions. It also provides a pathway to justice for Khosa’s family and people who may be in a similar position.” Read the analysis of how this judgement has affected the use of force by security forces during lockdown.

Price-gouging is not just unethical, but also illegal. If you suspect a company is doing this, report them by calling 0800 141.

Education material for schoolchildren

Learning from home: Section 27 has created an “educational resource map” for learning during lockdown. Resources are grouped into online, TV and literacy sections and include programme schedules, e-textbooks and online courses.

Learners’ rights: A host of civil society organisations have compiled the Basic Education Rights Handbook to “empower communities, school governing bodies, principals, teachers and learners to understand education law and policy, to know when learners’ rights have been violated and what steps are required to protect learners’ rights”.

 Reliable sources of data

Statistics on Covid-19 in South Africa

Covid-19 Online Resources and News Portal: This government website provides the Department of Health’s latest numbers on Covid-19 cases, deaths and recoveries in South Africa.

National Institute for Communicable Diseases: An interactive dashboard draws data from the institute itself and the National Health Laboratory Services. It includes the number of tests completed and the number of active cases. It also provides a provincial breakdown.

The institute’s surveillance reports also provide more detailed technical information on testing, the daily Covid-19 effective reproductive number and hospital admissions.

Daily Maverick’s Covid-19 Dashboard: This dashboard brings together data from the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases to give a provincial breakdown of South Africa’s pandemic. It can be found on Daily Maverick’s homepage.

Covid-19 South Africa Dashboard: A team made up of scientists from Wits University, iThemba LABS and DataConvergence have created this dashboard. It gives an overview of the numbers in the country, as well as per province. It also gives an overview of statistics for Africa, as well as for neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Statistics on Covid-19 around the world

The World Health Organisation Covid-19 Dashboard: The UN body brings together data it receives directly from governments and puts it into an interactive dashboard. It provides a global overview and country-specific information in real time. It also provides interactive graphs to visualise crucial global trends in the data, such as the total cases and deaths per one million of a population and changes over the past week.

Genesis Analytics Dashboard: This uses interactive graphics to illustrate the spread of Covid-19 in Africa over time.

Covid-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University: This draws data from the WHO and official government statements from around the world. The interactive map is constantly updated and the graphics are easy to navigate.

Disinformation in a time of Covid-19

Africa Check is running a live guide to all of its coronavirus fact-checks. It covers cures and preventions, hoaxes and scams, dubious videos and images, conspiracy theories, audio and podcasts and “things that are actually true (but you thought they weren’t)”.

Media Monitoring Africa has published a series on common disinformation trends about Covid-19 in South Africa. Find the series hereHave you come across Covid-19 disinformation yourself? Report it on Real411 and experts will review it and take action. MC


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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