Over the past few months, South Africans have had to adapt to a new normal. Staying at home to help contain the virus has meant changing how we structure our day and go about living our lives. COVID-19 has also changed how we work and use technology to bridge the distance between us. The LGSETA Limpopo Provincial Office set the tone amidst the pandemic by being the first provincial office to host its first virtual SDF Forum.

The coordination of the District SDF Forum presented a few challenges for the provincial office. As this was a learning curve, the SDFs concerns for not attending the meetings ranged from the fear of technology and using the electronic mediums as a tool for engagement. However, the team were patient and ready to step in to help with the challenges that arose.

The Limpopo provincial office was faced with yet another quarter after failing to attain its Provincial SDF Forum target for 2019/2020 in Quarter 4 due to the wake of the pandemic. The LGSETA’s ICT team had already made a virtual meeting platform available (Microsoft Teams), and quite a number of internal meetings were virtually held during lockdown. The provincial office saw an opportunity of using the virtual meeting platform to host a virtual Provincial SDF Forum.

Given the large number of attendees who may be required to be part of the SDF Forum, the office was concerned about the kind of response from stakeholders who were not well acquainted with virtual meetings. A simple and effective solution was to go on a pilot run with a few attendees so as to introduce them to the concept of virtual meetings. A small number also means better management and control of the meeting.

“It was not easy to get everyone on board during the SDF Forums. The reasons given by SDFs for not attending ranged from either not being present in the province or not being in the office but on lockdown said Margaret Marakalala – Limpopo Provincial Manager.

After much consultation with the SDFs, it became clear that this was more of fear of technology than anything else. However, the Limpopo provincial office team was not discouraged at all but spent time assisting SDFs to navigate around attending the meeting after receiving an invitation.

With much delight, Ms Marakalala expressed that once that exercise was done and the SDFs were a lot more comfortable, an invitation for a bigger SDF Forum was sent, and amazingly, it did not even take more than 15 minutes to get everyone joined in for the meeting. Our municipalities are now confident and acquainted with the virtual meetings. We now want to start monitoring our projects using the same virtual meeting platform stated Ms Marakalala.

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