Dear AA Member,

In my previous communication to you I spoke about how the Automobile Association adapted its operations to the coronavirus crisis, and how our internal processes have changed to continue meeting our members’ needs during the lockdown period. I am happy to report that, so far, our systems are holding up well, and we are still out there servicing incoming calls.

The response to my last letter was overwhelming, although someone intimated that I painted a rosy picture while ignoring the very real threats our country faces.

No. The fact that the AA planned ahead, and revised its operations, signals the exact opposite. The fact that we prepared for the crisis, doesn’t mean we are not worried about the future. I certainly am; I am concerned about the long-term impact all of this is going to have on the country’s economy and its people.

As the CEO of the AA, and having operated my own businesses in the past, I am acutely aware of the pressures many people are currently facing. And they are not only fearful for themselves, they understand that many, many others depend on their continued trade and operations.

But we can never allow ourselves to become paralysed by fear. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything will ‘just go away’. So it was imperative that we faced the challenge head-on. That’s why our mantra now is “continue no matter what”. 

This is not a declaration ignoring the crisis, nor is it a call to disregard the rules of physical distancing, or to stay at home. This is, instead, an affirmation of our goal to do what is necessary to keep you moving, to provide you roadside assistance or medical rescue if you need it, or to provide personal security through AA Armed Response if you are in physical danger.

These are strange times, to be sure, and we are all working through them as best as we can. For me, this means ensuring the AA’s staff are secure in their homes, able to continue working if they need to, and informed as much as possible about developments. As I mentioned last time, we instituted an immediate and thorough information-sharing programme when the crisis started. This is ongoing and will only end when the danger is over.

Thursday 9 April will signal exactly two weeks since the lockdown began, with one more week before its planned lifting on 16 April. We are not sure if this will happen, or if the period will be extended – as has happened in other countries. Whatever happens, though, we will continue with our operations. We have learnt some very important lessons very quickly working remotely, and we remain committed to ensuring you are serviced if and when you need us.

It would be remiss of me not to again thank all the men and women in our country who are working on the frontlines of dealing with COVID-19 wherever they may be. We recognise the efforts and personal sacrifices you are making; we are grateful for your service. 

On a final note, I want to again urge you to please download the AA app for your mobile phones if you haven’t already done so. This is a free app with a range of features and is available in all mobile stores. Not only will it make it easier for you to get in touch with the AA, the functionality built into the app makes it easier for us to service you. You also don’t need to call anyone with directions, the app automatically locates you.

Whatever the future holds please know that the AA is here for you, and always will be. I trust you all stay home and stay safe, and play your roles in flattening the curve.

Yours (still) from the kitchen table,

Willem Groenewald 
Automobile Association of South Africa