Gift of the Givers launched its extended food programme on Friday for communities battling hunger, as the extended coronavirus lockdown leaves many households without food.
“It’s an invisible disaster,” said one of the charity’s directors, Badr Kazi in Athlone, in Cape Town on Friday.
Packets of groceries were loaded into boots and bakkies around him for distribution in Cape Town, as part of the organisation’s nationwide delivery of 100 000 food parcels in the coming week.
The distribution was low-key, after at least two protests in the Cape Town area this week, as the heightened need for food left people confused over why one area was getting food parcels before them. The media did not go with to the distribution points, to keep the deliveries low-key, but the charity hopes the parcels will tide households over until their next delivery.
With Cape Town being one of the epicentres of the pandemic, the local and provincial governments have had to put in place measures to get food to the needy quickly, without them leaving home or breaking lockdown rules.
A protest erupted in Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain, on Tuesday, after one part of the neighbourhood wanted to know why the other side of the neighbourhood was being prioritised. Some shops have also been stormed, with people grabbing nappies, baby formula and cash.
With around 8 000 NGOs in the Western Cape preparing food and huge pots of stews and soups to help the government, the provincial government has also urged the SA Social Security Agency to reopen some of its offices to cope with the sheer demand of people who need food.
The George municipality said that on Thursday alone, 17 170 meals were served by 133 home-based soup kitchens to vulnerable communities across the municipality.
The Western Cape’s government’s call centre received around 14 500 calls for help over the Easter weekend, and had to bring in volunteers to staff the lines.
Another protest flared up in Stellenbosch on Friday morning, also over food parcel deliveries. Municipal manager Geraldine Mettler told News24 that communities were desperate and that a data base of possible beneficiaries has been compiled.
Screening to make sure there are no duplications of parcels, and that the most needy households are prioritised, may have led to the frustration.
On the sidelines of the Gift of the Givers’ distribution point, volunteers were seen discussing how to take the batches of food to the needy without causing large gatherings and making people panic that they would be left out. A small police and City Law Enforcement contingent also monitored, in case of a flare up of some of the looting that has been seen since the lockdown was declared.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has thanked organisations which were switching priorities and pitching in with fruit, food and volunteers to help get food out to the needy, and noted in a digicon on Thursday that the need for food in many households was urgent.
Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer also thanked farmers and farmworkers for their work in keeping the food supply chain going.
He said he also planned to take up the ban of wine exports, saying it would have devastating effect on the economy.
The Gift of the Givers’ Kazi said the coronavirus pandemic was on a scale not seen by many generations.
“Most disasters have parameters,” said Kazi.
Used to fires or floods where triaging is clear, and there is an end in sight, he explained that careful planning with available food supplies, and making sure that food prices didn’t rise, would be vital during the pandemic.
“You and I don’t know, even the experts don’t know, when it’s going to begin, and end,” he said, urging people to stay indoors to avoid the feared spike in infections seen in the US and Italy.
In between coordinating deliveries of the packets of oil, flour, rice, jam, long-life milk, and even a little packet of strawberry biscuits for a rare treat, project manager Ali Sablay said the generosity of the South African public to people who were battling had been incredible.
“We could see during this lockdown period the spirit of ubuntu overflowing in our country,” said Sablay.
“And we would like to thank all South Africans for playing a role in this.”
Among the donors were the Groblers from Kirstenbosch, who raised R62 000 by getting sponsorship for a round-the-clock cycling marathon on their indoor bicycle.
Daughter Georgia, a food science student, came up with the idea and roped in her mother Wendy, IT expert brother Matthew – who is working from home to keep his company’s networks up and running – and orthopedic surgeon dad Garth who had to cancel all surgeries during the lockdown.
Speaking through a shweshwe fabric mask at the distribution point, Georgia said: “We were overwhelmed with the amount of support that we got.”
ANC MP Faiez Jacobs, also volunteering at the distribution site, held his hands as if in prayer and extended his gratitude to everybody donating food for the hungry.
He said there had been controversy over food parcels, and that food security was a very emotive issue, so seeing the food ready to go out was a relief.
“We are calling on the patience of the poor especially, and we are calling on the generosity of the rich so that we can help each other. We are all in this pandemic together.”
A Mitchells Plain ward councillor, Bongani Ngcani, told News24 that after the Tafelsig protests, lists of beneficiaries had been compiled and they had met with Mayor Dan Plato, and that a clearer plan on how to distribute food had been drawn up.
However, they also had to navigate the permits required to actually deliver the food, so recipients were urged to be patient.