Gift of the Givers & government doing God’s work

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Media reports suggested that in just more than a week and for only R750 thousand, Gift of the Givers was able to deliver a “20-bed dedicated to Covid-19 isolation and high care facility at Settlers Hospital in Makhanda.”

Suffering from a bout of Delhi belly, after back-packing in Rajasthan, India, for two weeks, my sojourn took me to sight-seeing in the southern city of Bangalore.

It was the autumn of 2012, just after monsoon season.

Passing the Vidhana Soudha, the state legislature building of Karnataka, of which Bangalore serves as the capital, one is struck by the motto imprinted on the building just below the state crest: government work is God’s work.

High-care facility in a week

These words went through my head again recently when reading about the work that Gift of the Givers had done in Settlers Hospital in Makhanda.

They were doing government’s work but more importantly they were doing God’s work.

The significance of the role that the hospital plays in the area became apparent when lecturing at Rhodes University.

There is not another hospital for another 120 kilometres and these hopsitals are found either in Nelson Mandela Bay or in King William’s Town.

Media reports suggested that in just more than a week and for only R750 thousand, Gift of the Givers was able to deliver a “20-bed dedicated to Covid-19 isolation and high care facility at Settlers Hospital in Makhanda.”

The reports went on to indicate just how similar Gift of the Givers work was to moves in Wuhan, China, where a hospital was built in a week.

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman met with hospital management in November, the contractor moved in by the beginning of December and week or so later preparations were underway to open the facility.

Sooliman, the organisation’s founder, stated that this is the way a country should respond to any “urgency, emergency and disaster.”

“It means you act now,” Sooliman continued, “not in six months’ time.”

Service delivery needs strategy and capacity

According to the same reports, Dr Sooliman, a medical doctor by profession, suggested that the correct strategy, especially one would assume in a struggling province like the Eastern Cape, the best was to equip smaller hospitals so as to alleviate the pressure off the metro hospitals.

As a result, Gift of the Givers was concentrating on lending support to hospitals in Bisho, King William’s Town and Graaff-Reinet as well.

In other words, not only can Gift of the Givers be teaching our government departments a thing or two about God’s work, how to deliver basic and advanced services such as in this instance a high care health facility with the necessary urgency and at low cost, but they are also able to teach government about planning and strategizing.

With limited resources in the face of a frugal fiscus, we have to spend wisely and make our little money go as far as possible and in order to do this we must be able to plan as thoroughly as entities such as the Gift of the Givers does.

Partnerships

Our country’s response to Covid-19 is not the first time we experience an urgency in service delivery.

Our country experienced this in the lead up to the Soccer World Cup in 2010 as well where we were able to illustrate just how urgently we can deliver on public goods and services but also just how we are able to mitigate economic challenges by investing in these strategic infrastrcuture interventions.

Hopefully what is needed is not more emergencies that will kick government into action but rather an ability to work with entities such as Gift of the Givers who have the national, international and technical expertise and clout to deliver on a wide-range of public goods and services.

Amidst the many wrongs that some within government perpetrate, it is refreshing that when a success such as the one that Gift of the Givers achieved in Makhanda one is able to identify some of the good that government should be and is capable of doing.

Government work is God’s work. At least it is meant to be.

Yet while we may still question this, there should be little doubt that organizations such as Gift of the Givers, under the stewardship of people such as Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, are doing government’s work and therefore God’s work.

Dr Wesley Seale taught South African politics at Rhodes University and the University of the Western Cape.