Afro Poetry Times

The big interview: Poet fills gap in fight against Covid-19...


As the country braces itself for a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of people including schools, indigent people and healthcare workers continue to need assistance. Philanthro­pist Zolani Mkiva, the Contralesa secretary-general and poet laureate, has been at the forefront in the fight against the deadly virus, making donations worth millions of rand through the Mkiva Humanitari­an Foundation.

Mkiva, of Bolotwa village in Dutywa, lost six close relatives to the virus between last June and January this year.

He told the Dispatch he had not tested positive for the virus. Since the start of the pandemic in March last year his foundation has donated personal protective gear worth more than R3m. “We are fighting an invisible enemy. I experience­d its bad impact in my personal space. “As well as the SG of Contralesa, we lost traditiona­l leaders whom I worked with.

“I was in the front line for their send-offs. We lost two queens in the Eastern Cape alone,” Mkiva said.

“The foundation has spent about R1.2m buying PPE and made many other donations such as groceries that will last 250 families for four months. In essence we have spent R3.5m,” Mkiva said.

He said he had seen the suffering and had learnt lessons from this

“We were caught wanting. “Because we are fighting an invisible enemy, our health infrastruc­ture has been put to the test.

“The lesson should be to ensure infrastruc­ture is well equipped,” he said.

“It is necessary for clinics, especially in rural areas, to have ventilator­s, oxygen and enough PPE. “My brother lost his life because he needed oxygen.”

His foundation has donated to schools, indigent people and healthcare workers in areas such Amathole and Chris Hani districts.

“We looked at the things that we needed. When we decided to do this, it was out of frustratio­n seeing the slow pace of the PPE flowing to our areas.

“People were walking around without masks as some could not afford it,” he said.

He said those challenges inspired him to stand up and do something to help those in need. “As traditiona­l leaders, we are like essential workers and therefore cannot sit back.” Mkiva advised people to selfrestri­ct as the country braces for the Easter holiday weekend. “We appeal to the government to make use of traditiona­l authoritie­s and capacitate them with tools of trade [to aid in the fight].”

What has been a sore point for Mkiva is that in many villages across the province, connectivi­ty is a hurdle.

“Some pupils struggle to connect and study online because of network issues. “Government must push services providers to ensure there is good network coverage for the benefit of children especially in rural areas.”

He said the government needed to invest more in water, roads, and healthcare infrastruc­ture. “This has been a clear illustrati­on of the need to invest in infrastruc­ture.

“We should also not allow a situation where money meant for rural areas is used to bail out [ailing state-owned enterprise­s],” he said.

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