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BEFORE the Phelophepa health care trains can pull into a station to set up their mobile clinics, there is much work to be done.

GO TEAM: The team from NMMU’s Community Development Unit, from left, project manager Zingisa Sofoyiya, project assistant Thozeka Tshangela and CDU intern Saadiqah Pandie, travel the province coordinating Local Organising Committees at every station. To enable the team to reach where they need to go, the Volkswagen Community Trust has sponsored a Caddy to the project for the past six years. INSET: NMMU Engagement Office director Prof George de Lange Picture: Nicky Willemse

The station has to be physically prepared, with grass cut, toilets ready and on-site cleaners employed; community members, schools and other organisations from far and wide have to be informed; and there needs to be adequate security.

This is coordinated by “social mobilisers” in every province, appointed by the Transnet Foundation. In the Eastern Cape, the social mobilisation role is filled by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Community Development Unit (CDU).

NMMU is the only university fulfilling this task, which in other provinces is managed by NGOs or private organisations.

The social mobilisers go ahead of the Phelophepa, meeting with key stakeholders in every city, town or village to be visited by the train, including traditional leaders, municipalities, ward councillors, police, various government departments (including health, education, social development, public works, correctional services, and roads and transport), NGOs, community leaders, educators, private companies and emergency services.

“You need to get the buy-in from all the key stakeholders in the community, said NMMU’s CDU project manager Zingisa Sofoyiya.

These key members of the community become partners in a Local Organising Committee (LOC), formulated for each station to be visited. Portfolios include communication, security, outreach, transport, station readiness and recruitment.

While the LOC positions are voluntary, Transnet Foundation employs about 65 people per station, including interpreters, retired nurses, a pharmacist, cashiers and general workers.

 “The LOC usually has a steering committee of 20 people who then manage the different sub-committees,” Sofoyiya said.

Those managing the outreach have to identify schools, retirement homes and other places, for staff and students from the Phelophepa to visit for health, vision and dental screening.

“The LOCs provide an opportunity for community members to work together. Should the Phelophepa visit the same station in another year, the existing LOCs are used.”

It is the Transnet Foundation’s hope that the partnerships and sense of ownership developed in communities through the LOCs, will not vanish with the train but lead to other developmental programmes or projects within communities, building on the Phelophepa social mobilisation experience.

“It’s not only about getting ready for the train’s visit but it’s about developing the capacity of people in the area, to work on other projects in this area,” said Prof George de Lange, director of NMMU’s Engagement Office.

Furthermore, when the university needs to visit these areas for its own projects, these are also the people they work through.

The university, which has been involved in this social mobilisation role since 2007, provides the benchmark in terms of social mobilisation for Phelophepa – and has even developed a short learning programme on social mobilisation.

In 2012, all the social mobilisers in every province came together at NMMU to undergo training. They continue to come together once a year in October – just after the Phelophepa I and II have finished their nine-month runs – to review the year that was and prepare for the next.

“NMMU’s CDU is the only social mobiliser we have that is not a business . . . NMMU is responsible for social mobilisation for the whole of the Eastern Cape,” said Transnet Foundation’s operations manager for Phelophepa, Onke Mazibuko.

Contact information
Miss Thozeka Tshangela
Project Assistant/Administrator
Tel: 0415043001/0782717299