Original Research - Special Collection: COVID-19 Pandemic Insights

The effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups: A reflection on South African informal urban settlements

Bethuel Ngcamu, Evangelos Mantzaris
Africa’s Public Service Delivery & Performance Review | Vol 9, No 1 | a483 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/apsdpr.v9i1.483 | © 2021 Bethuel Ngcamu, Evangelos Mantzaris | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 August 2020 | Published: 29 November 2021

About the author(s)

Bethuel Ngcamu, Department of Public Management and Leadership, Faculty of Humanities, Nelson Mandela University, Gqeberha, South Africa
Evangelos Mantzaris, Faculty of Management Studies, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Durban, South Africa


Background: The economically vulnerable population, mostly black, especially those who are residing in precarious informal settlements are most susceptible to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Aim: To determine the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the socio-economic condition of the vulnerable groups in South Africa. It also attempts to reflect the government’s response strategies to provide help and services for the vulnerable communities who are considered to be most susceptible to the existing pandemic. Lastly, the response strategies of civil society groups and the challenges they are encountering in providing humanitarian assistance to indigent communities are explored.

Setting: This is a reflective study where secondary data has been analysed and intertwined with the researchers’ experiences and insights of the South African informal settlements’ welfare.

Methods: This article followed a reflective approach where the experiences of the vulnerable communities are strategically reflected upon.

Results: This fascinating study unearthed the effects of the coronavirus disease on the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable communities, the economy of the informal sector, the brutal enforcement agencies during the lockdown period, criminality, the fragmented government response and the marginalisation and frustration of civil society groups in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need.

Conclusion: The South African government’s fragmentations, bureaucratic, maladministration and corruption in public departments have adversely impacted the welfare of the vulnerable groups who are living in the informal settlements. The human rights violations by the security agencies which are directed to the indigent people, and the centralisation of the humanitarian efforts by government had a negative effect on their wellbeing.


civil society groups; coronavirus; food distribution; informal settlements; lockdown; police; SANDF


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Crossref Citations

1. Food Insecurity in the Informal Settlements of Inanda Households Living with Children under 60 Months in Ethekwini Municipality
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doi: 10.3390/children9101521