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CCID reflects on lockdown

CCID reflects on lockdown

28 June 2020

Like many city centre businesses, the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) has had to grapple with operating in an unchartered Covid-19 environment. From Day 1 of the nationwide lockdown three months ago, the CCID’s operational teams hit the ground running to ensure the CBD was safe, clean, caring and open for business. Here’s how they did it.

When South African went into a rigid lockdown on 26 March 2020, imposing the regulations of the National Disaster Act in the country’s most economically successful and culturally vibrant CBD fell, to a large extent, on the Cape Town Central City Improvement District. From the get-go, its operational departments, namely Safety & Security, Urban Management and Social Development, had to rethink, regroup, redeploy and restrategise their modus operandi. And the duty to record it all and keep stakeholders informed of the status quo fell on its Communications team. Here the CCID management team give an account of Operation Lockdown.


What has the CCID’s biggest success been during Lockdown?

Recognising from the beginning that we fall under essential services and quickly adapting. We called for an immediate operational strategy session to revisit CCID services based on the lockdown conditions and adjusted accordingly. We did not cut back on services (the only exception was our cleaning services at night which were deemed unnecessary). We also identified and introduced additional services across all departments to add value. We communicated regularly, were informative and supportive to all venues that were open. We also continued supporting all staff, service providers and our NGO partners with a range of services and goods.

How did the CCID overcome the challenge of operating in a lockdown. After all, it’s unchartered territory …

Indeed. At the start of the lockdown in March, there was little or no information available on how we should operate. However, our goal was to stay focused and remain agile, and this enabled our teams to meet challenges and respond to situations. It has been crucial for the CCID to remain relevant under Lockdown to ensure continuity, stability, and confidence in the CBD. It was also very important to reassure our stakeholders that they had nothing to worry about while under Lockdown.


Name one key lesson you have learnt about managing a team since Lockdown.

We have learnt that we must be fluid in our approach and refrain from the normal rigid military style of management as procedures constantly changed during the different levels of Lockdown.

We had to look at the management of travelling to and from work, briefing of staff members without breaching physical distancing protocols, our shift hand-over procedures, the sanitising of equipment and how to address the public and suspects alike. 

What have been the most surprising crime stats during Lockdown?

At the beginning of Lockdown, the Safety & Security department changed its deployment strategy as town was deserted and buildings were boarded up. It was therefore imperative to protect properties, people and possessions. At the start of Lockdown there was a spike in opportunistic criminal activity but we acted swiftly and arrested the perpetrators. Thereafter crime plummeted in the CBD and we saw a huge decrease in contact crimes. As a result of this planning, there were few surprises. Our department predicted what crimes would decrease and which ones would increase. We are pleased that we did not get any spikes in any of the crime categories and have managed to maintain a low level of crime across all crime categories.


What are some of the measures you’ve put in place to support clients during Lockdown?

At the start of Lockdown, we collaborated with our NGO partners to ensure our homeless clients had access to daily food supplies through various feeding programmes which were then established. After petitioning the City of Cape Town, several ablution facilities were re-opened so that there was access to running water and toilet facilities for those living on the street. We also supported our NGO partners by providing personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, antibacterial soap, and alcohol-based sanitiser. Our team of field and social workers has also been educating our clients about the dangers of the pandemic and small ways that they can try and protect themselves.

Lockdown has been emotionally draining. How are you managing to stay positive and support your team at the same time?

This pandemic has been extremely emotionally demanding on our team as they have been working and available to their clients on the street since Day 1. Their emotional wellbeing is also impacted by what has been referred to as an “emotional tsunami", where feelings of anxiety and concern are extremely high with fear of the unknown. Our team, nevertheless, remain positive and determined to assist our clients as best as possible. They have been supported with personal protective equipment and are taking precautionary measures to prevent contracting or transmitting the disease as they are engaging with an extremely vulnerable community.

The CCID management team, from left to right: Pat Eddy, Social Development, Kally Benito, Urban Mangement, Sharon Sorour-Morris, Communications, Mo Hendricks, Safety & Security, CEO Tasso Evangelinos and Stephen Willenburg, Business manager.


What safety protocols have been put in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections at work?

The measures we have applied include work-from-home arrangements for employees who are able to do so, staggered shifts where possible for operational staff, and special consideration for employees older than 60 or with comorbidities. We have also educated and consulted employees on Covid-19 mitigations, provided PPE, conducted augmented cleaning procedures, professional sanitisation of the office and rearranged office furniture and meeting rooms to observe physical distancing. We are also recording and monitoring symptoms and temperature readings of staff and have installed signage to create awareness and reminders. Plus, we have purchased screens to divide working spaces.

How have CCID staff reacted to the protocols you’ve put in place?

In my opinion, mostly positive. It is a difficult time for everybody, so it is understandable for there to be a certain amount of fear irrespective of the measures employed to mitigate the spread of the virus. The CCID has done its level best to balance the seamless continuity of its essential services without compromising on the health and wellbeing of its employees.


How has Lockdown changed the way your department functions?

As one of the non-operational teams, the Communications team has worked remotely since Lockdown was enforced. This has been an interesting challenge, but we hit the ground running, quickly setting up a virtual office routine, mastering Zoom and Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp video calls and the like. Our mission during Lockdown is to effectively communicate the extent of the incredible work of our operational teams at this surreal time in the city centre; to this end, over the past four months we have produced over 180 media clips to an advertising value equivalent value of over R4.5 million, reaching an audience of over 240 million people. It’s been phenomenal. We have also stepped up our digital communication, producing nearly 300 Facebook posts at this time, four e-Newsletters and reaching thousands of stakeholders through newsflashes containing pertinent information. We are also in the final production process of our Winter edition of our quarterly newspaper City Views, for which we have had to rethink our distribution strategy as it is usually distributed to venues in the CBD.

How is CCID Comms promoting its stakeholders that have been hard hit by Lockdown.

Our stakeholders are a varied audience, from people who work and live in the city centre to those who visit or invest in it. At the start of Lockdown, when people were hungry for information, we produced a map and detailed list of the essential services outlets that were open and trading in the deserted downtown and promoted it through sponsored posts on social media. We have also collated all the Covid-19 notices from the City of Cape Town in one space on our website for easy reference as well as sending out newsflashes to an audience of thousands to inform them on pertinent information. Using digital communication and print channels, we have continuously promoted stakeholders, especially retailers in the restaurant business, who have had to remain relevant at this difficult time and rethink their offering to customers.


What have you enjoyed about working in town during Lockdown?

While our lives have been altered dramatically, I will always remember this time as it exposed small moments of hope and humanity. I also enjoyed the peace and solace of a once-busy Central City.

Has cleaning the CBD been a challenge during Lockdown?

Right from the start, our cleaning teams have been on the frontline, and this posed its own challenges. There was still a lot of litter, even though the streets were deserted, but Lockdown afforded us the opportunity to do deep cleaning and sanitise areas of the CBD: cleaners still collected 44.5 tonnes of waste in March and 35.5 tonnes of waste in April. We also washed and scrubbed all the green litter bins throughout the CBD, sanitised them and kept the CBD clean and smelling fresh.

During Lockdown, we are still grappling with the problem of illegal dumping. We would like to appeal to people to dispose of their refuse in a responsible manner: if refuse is disposed of correctly, then there would be no illegal dumping. Members of the public can assist us by reporting perpetrators of illegal dumping to our 24-hour emergency number 082 415 7127. We will then be able to investigate and find out why the illegal dumping is taking place and offer assistance if need be. Our aim is to provide an urban space that is safe and sanitised as the people start returning to work and Lockdown levels ease.


Tags: COVID-19 lockdown CCID CCID CEO