Every year in South Africa, people lose their possessions, their homes and often their lives due to fire.
This is particularly true in the country’s poorer communities, where people often live in densely populated shanty-towns and are forced to use gas or wood instead of electricity to cook and warm themselves. One candle, match, cigarette or stove left unattended can easily lead to a blaze that can destroy hundreds of homes. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2010, some 240 000 people were displaced and 70 000 shacks destroyed due to fire.
Knowing this, South African band The Muffinz are putting their weight behind an affordable new initiative that can save many lives.
The practical lifeline is a locally developed fire detection device created by Lumkani Fire Detection. This social enterprise was identified by whiskey brand Chivas Regal as part of their inaugural The Venture competition in 2014. Essentially, the fire alarm is a heat detector that measures the rate-of-rise temperature in a room. In the event of fire, the device sounds an alarm, giving a family time to take action before the flames become unmanageable. After 20 seconds, the device transmits a signal, triggering neighbouring homes’ detectors up to a 60m radius, creating a community-wide response.
The collaboration between Chivas, The Muffinz and Metro FM DJ Mo Flava led to a series of parties at the hippest venues in Joburg, Pretoria and Durban between October to December 2015. More than a series of parties, the events invited party-goers with a social conscience to ‘party with a purpose’, with the Muffinz being the headline act. A portion of ticket sale proceeds from these exclusive events went installing fire detection devices in informal settlements across the nation, to assist in preventing the start and spread of shack fires, saving lives.
Hundreds of the devices have already been installed in homes in Naledi in Soweto, Johannesburg and Mamelodi in nearby Pretoria.
For The Muffinz, a group of five 20-something musicians from Johannesburg, the decision to support the project made perfect sense. “We believe in being proactive,” said guitarist Sifiso Mthae, who believes that the business of music and the "business of business" meet easily at the point where the welfare of others is concerned.
A communications graduate from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Mthae was considering a career in the public sector where his skills in communication and sociology could best be put to use. However, meeting with four like-minded friends at UJ back in 2010 put paid to these ambitions, and they channelled their efforts into using music and business partnerships to promote social awareness. “I realised that I could make a bigger difference on stage through music than through working in government,” he said. “Music would give me the opportunity to reach and influence more people.”
According to Mthae, it is "the message" that has helped the band's music stay relevant and attract fans and business partners. “Our messages are for young people growing up in the township,” he explained. “We speak to boys, girls, single mothers and others who identify with the challenges we sing about. It is part of our belief to identify problems, pose solutions and, through music, raise awareness about South Africa’s socio-economic ills.
“This is why the Chivas Regal/Lumkani project appealed to us. It addressed the tokenism that takes place after an event, like an informal settlement fire. People phone in to radio stations, express sympathy, promise funds and move on. This project did something real to address the danger and prevent unnecessary deaths and destruction," he added.
"Together, we have the opportunity to change views, change lives and change the world one ear at a time.”
Chivas Regal marketing manager Shelley Reeves said the company’s association with the Muffinz has already lived up to the company’s vision: “The idea of social entrepreneurship is using business as a force for good. This appeals to Chivas Regal in a meaningful, powerful way. We are always looking for like-minded partners, who align with our brand that sees itself as inspiring nobility and positive change. The results of this particular partnership have been very encouraging, with 460 Lumkani devices already having been installed in Naledi and Mamelodi.”
For more information regarding the Lumkani Fire Detector, go to www.lumkani.co.za
The Venture, now in its second year, seeks to promote, support and fund the most promising and innovative social development start-ups from around the globe. For more about the programme, visit The Venture website.