Gift of the Givers

The South African non-profit civil society sector plays a significant role in helping the South African government fulfill its constitutional mandate. The Gift of the givers is one organisation that has been influential and active in many disaster stricken areas, both locally and abroad, but The Gift of the Givers is more than just a disaster response agency, boasting more than 21 different categories of projects. They include entrepreneurial, bursaries, education, water wealth, agriculture and sustainability to name just a few.

Founded by Dr Imtiaz Sooliman in 1992 as a spiritual calling, The Gift of The Givers is a proudly South African organization that has a global footprint having delivered lifesaving aid in the form of Search and Rescue teams, medical personnel, medical equipment, medical supplies, medicines, vaccines, anti-malarial medication, high energy and protein supplements, food and water to millions of people in 41 countries, South Africa included, dispersing in excess of R1.4 billion in aid to needy individuals and communities over the past 24 years. All relief aid and operational costs are generated through donations from corporates and the public.

Gift of the Givers is the largest disaster response NGO of African origin on the African continent and has earned 103 individual and organisational accolades and awards, including four Presidential awards to date. It is no wonder, as the organisation invented the world’s first and only containerised mobile hospital, commissioned Africa’s largest Open Source Computer Lab, established the world’s first containerised mobile primary health care unit and developed the world’s first groundnut-soya high energy protein supplement, used for severe Malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, TB, Cancer and other debilitating conditions.

The expertise of The Gift of the Givers extends to construction, with their own design for a prototype house used in both Khayelitsha post the 2013 fires and Alexandra after recurring flooding of the Jukskei River. The materials used for this prototype house are fire resistant and offer superb seasonal insulation.

Freeing captives

As the largest disaster relief organisation on the continent, Gift of the Givers (GOTG) are well known in South Africa for the work that they do during times of crisis. But what a lot of people aren’t aware of is the role that the foundation has played in trying to get South African captives freed. Like the United States, which so famously “won’t negotiate with terrorists”, South Africa too takes the stance that paying ransom money for the release of captives is counter productive, and will only encourage terrorists to target South African citizens.

Stephen McGowan with his father, Malcolm McGowan, and wife, Catherine McGowan, Johannesburg, 10th August 2017
Stephen McGowan with his father, Malcolm McGowan, and wife, Catherine McGowan, Johannesburg, 10th August 2017

Being an independent organisation, Gift of the Givers are able to intervene in situations like that of Yolande Korkie, a South African woman who was being held captive by Al Qaeda in Yemen, and who was released with the assistance of GOTG in January 2014. The foundation played a similar role negotiating the release of Stephen McGowan, who returned home in 2017 after having spent six years in captivity. McGowan was kidnapped on the 25th November 2011, while on holiday in Timbuktu, Mali. Having been contacted by Stephen’s father, Malcolm, and realising that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were open to negotiations, the foundation set up talks. Having made the initial contact Gift of the Givers finally passed Stephen’s case on to the South African government at end of June 2017, who finalised his release a month later.

It is clear that Gift of the givers play an essential role in our country, and the City of Durban is grateful to Dr Imtiaz Sooliman and his foundation for the incredible work that they do in the name of South Africans, both locally and abroad.