Health minister backs call for face masks as Makana campaign gathers speed

Rhodes University mask production team.
Rhodes University mask production team.

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize has called on members of the public to wear cloth face masks when they are in public places and here in Makhanda, the Facemasks 4 Makana group is well on its way to making face masks available for as many people as possible, with dozens of people at home making masks to donate across the town.

In his national briefing on 10 April, the Minister said face-masks are recommended as an addition to hand-washing and social distancing.

He said, “We are satisfied that there is sufficient scientific evidence to show that the cloth face mask significantly reduces the amount of [the SARS COV-2]virus that can be emitted.”The SARS COV-2 virus causes the disease, Covid-19, which is transmitted by breathing in the droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and by touching a surface where infected cough- or sneeze- droplets have landed.

Facemasks 4 Makana’s Susan Powers said their aim was to encourage everyone in Makana to wear a mask over their mouth and nose when in a public place, including shopping. “Our campaign is designed to use cloth face masks – so we are not competing with health services that require medical grade masks for frontline staff such as nurses and doctors,” Powers said.

The group encourages members of the public to donate masks so that as many people as possible in Makhanda are able to wear one when they’re in public places. If you’re not a sewer, Facemasks 4 Makana encourages you to buy masks from the outlets listed below for donation to the campaign. Group members will continue to distribute the masks where they are most needed.

“Wearing a cloth mask will only provide partial protection for the wearer, perhaps 60% protection. But it also protects the people the wearer meets, because we can be carrying the virus but not showing symptoms, and therefore highly infectious without knowing it. And it is also a very visible reminder to encourage keeping distances and not touching.”

Facemasks 4 Makana has adopted the #masks4all worldwide slogan for wearing a mask: ‘My mask protects you – Your mask protects me.’

“By wearing a mask you are doing what millions of others are doing in countries around the world to prevent CoVID19 spreading,” Powers said.

In the space of a week, dozens of people have joined the call to make masks at home. Makhanda residents are encouraged to donate masks and also fabrics which can deposited at drop-off points at Pick n Pay, Spar and Clicks.

Makana Revive! has donated R2000 towards the purchase of elastic, and Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) and Dupliprint designed and printed the educational pamphlets that accompany each mask.

“Earlier this week we provided masks to accompany food parcels distributed by Food4Futures and the Cathedral of St Michael & St George,” Powers said. “We’re delighted that high risk and high profile staff such as Hi-Tec have been given masks.”

These were all masks received from home sewers and donated to these organisations and others, including the Magistrate’s Court. The groups next visit was to the taxi associations.

“We have asked them to share the word with passengers that everyone should wear a mask.”

Facemasks 4 Makana is also in contact with commercial outlets. Birch’s have a permit to trade during lockdown and are making many thousands of masks.

“They have 80 kilometres of elastic!” Powers said.

Smaller concerns such as 9 and 3/4, among others, are selling masks as fast as they can make them.

Facemasks 4 Makana is working collaboratively with the Grahamstown Residents Association, Grahamstown Business Forum, Makana Revive!, the Grahamstown Parents Network and Rhodes University.

“We celebrate everyone who joins in, especially mask makers, and we invite more sewers to join us,” Powers said. “But we also celebrate every person who wears a mask in public places. You are helping make Makana safer at this difficult time.”

Masks are available to purchase at Pick n Pay, Birch’s and 9 and 3/4. To help with donations of masks or fabrics please contact Susan Powers at 082 307 0789. If you wish to make a financial donation go to

Please visit for more information.