Following the announcement of a National Disaster by President Ramaphosa on Sunday night, the question arises what impact this will have on FISA’s activities. For the moment, the situation is as follows:
1. The only FISA meeting likely to have more than 100 attendees is the 10th Annual FISA Conference, planned for 20 August 2020. It is too early to take a decision about any possible cancellation of the Conference, and planning will go ahead as usual. Registrations usually open in June, almost three months from now. FISA’s next financial obligation only arises on 17 June, when we have to pay the last 50% of our reservation fee with Sandton Convention Centre. As we approach that date we shall take a decision, considering prevailing circumstances and the best information available at the time.
2. The regional meetings for the first quarter have all been held, except the Central Region (Bloemfontein) which is scheduled for 16 April. The FISA Chairperson, Eben Nel, and the Central Regional Chair, Rynoe Smith, will discuss this meeting and take a sensible decision. This meeting usually draws between 15 and 30 attendees.
The next round of meetings will only be in May – eight to ten weeks away. None of these meetings is likely to attract more than 100 people. We do not have to take a decision on these meetings before the third week in April, when the invitations will have to start going out. Speakers need to be invited before then, but that can be managed in the regions and the common sense approach would be to source local speakers.
3. The next council meeting is 11 May. We also do not need to take a decision on that before the last week in April.
4. Administratively, FISA has always been a virtual operation with all FISA functionaries working from home or their business premises. No change is necessary at this stage as none of these functions is dependent on physical presence in any location.
5. We have investigated the possibility of conducting meetings online, and the Western Cape Region did some trials over the last year with members in George, Swellendam, etc. We continue to investigate this as an option, but it has some financial implications and other limitations. We shall keep members informed about developments on this front.
It seems at this stage that the virus infections flatten out after five to twelve weeks from the first cases. FISA supports the President’s call for sensible and responsible conduct, avoiding and preventing panic.