The inevitable passing of Mr. Mandela at some time in the future holds various Business Continuity risks for organisations within South Africa. Planning for these risks should occur in advance to ensure that businesses can operate normally during the very sad and mournful time when it comes to pass.
The following considerations should be taken into account:
1. Social media platforms
The inevitable passing of Mr. Mandela will results in many comments and discussions on social media platforms. The stance that organisations take on the events may have a positive or detrimental impact on the reputation of the organisation. It is important that organisations prepare social media (and media in general) statements carefully and with thought to ensure that any statements made on behalf of the organisations does not impede the organisation’s reputation as being inconsiderate or insensitive as comments which are not provided in person may be taken out of context or may be misinterpreted.
2. Availability of staff
Although not confirmed by government, it has been rumoured that the ruling party will instil two to four days’ public holidays after the event. A two week (10 work days) period of mourning is likely to follow subsequent to the public holidays, in which the South African and international public will be able to pay their respects to Mr. Mandela’s passing. The public holidays and mourning proceedings may result in large scale absenteeism of staff as many South Africans will probably take leave days to attend the mourning proceedings at earmarked mourning sites.
3. Availability of transport facilities
The inevitable passing of Mr. Mandela will be coupled with large contingencies of international mourners coming to South Africa to pay their respects. This will lead to an inevitable increase in the use of metered taxis, the Gautrain system, airplanes and other forms of public transportation as experienced during the 2010 Football World Cup. Staff who make use of these transportation mechanisms will most likely experience delays in getting to work, or the lack of transportation may lead to absenteeism of staff. Organisations may have to implement flexi-time policies which will see these risks subverted.
4. Access restrictions to main centres and alternate facilities
Due to the influx of international VIPs, it is believed that exclusion zones may be implemented to allow for the movement and safety of these VIPs. The implementation of exclusion zones will have an impact on traffic for the period of mourning as main roads may not be available. This may lead to delays for staff getting to work or delays in getting to alternate sites of companies are forced to invoke their BCPs for reasons outside of the mourning proceedings.
In addition, some organisations may choose to voluntarily invoke their BCPs to operate from their alternate work area recovery sites to bypass the mourning proceedings, especially those who may be located near earmarked mourning sites. Consideration should be given to how and when a company will invoke these facilities to ensure they secure space.
5. Memorial marches through main centres
Memorial marches will most likely take place to commemorate the life of Mr. Mandela. The marches may deny access to main centres or lead to large scale absenteeism as staff members join these marches. As this will be an emotional time for many South Africans, there is a risk that emotions may flare and that marches may become dangerous in nature. Vandalism may cause physical damage to properties for which insurance policies must be up to date, or may result in inaccessibility of roads and buildings, forcing organisations to invoke their Business Continuity Plans.
In 2010, ContinuitySA engaged with a number of key role players prior to the FIFA World Cup to plan and prepare for issues and risks of a similar nature as listed above. As such, we have first-hand knowledge on the successful approaches undertaken by organisations to mitigate these risks.
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