The streets of Olievenhoutbosch in Centurion were abuzz with activity as thousands of hungry people queued for food parcels organised by the Mahlasedi Foundation.
The majority of residents arrived as early as Friday and patiently spent the night queuing outside Walter Sisulu Primary School where the food parcels were handed out.
Queues were divided according to sections of the suburb.
The food parcels consisted of 10kg of rice, maize meal, flour, a box containing tinned goods, 2 litres of cooking oil and packets of yeast.
Soldiers and police officers were on the scene maintaining social distance regulations.
Ngangezizwe Mpofu was among those who spent the night in a queue.
“I am desperate and hungry. I didn’t mind to sleep here because I need food. I am unemployed and pray that my wish be fulfilled. I don’t think that there is anyone who will be impatient for free food,” Mpofu said.
Ellie Moyo joined the queue after 20:00 and by 14:00 she was still patiently waiting for her turn.
“Last night, there was a commotion where people were pushing each other, jostling to enter the school. Today, there is order because soldiers and the police are here. I am hopeful that I will return home to my two young children with food.
“I am an unemployed mother who survives on odd jobs. This is an opportunity that will keep my children happy knowing that there is food on the table,” she said.
Thabiso Mofokeng said he had only eaten a few biscuits since he joined the line on Friday night.
Residents of the Olievenhoutbosch township in Centurion, queue on May 2, 2020 during food distributions. (Marco Longari, AFP)
He said he had earlier registered for food parcels and received an SMS from the foundation.
“I am happy that I am near the school gate. I have been spent a cold night standing. As I’m an unemployed father, it is my responsibility to ensure that I feed my family.
“I’m patient and excited about this opportunity. There is hope that today, I am going home armed with food that will sustain us for few weeks during the lockdown,” said Mofokeng.
Motjatji Mathipa said he was going to pray for officials from the foundation so that they continue to serve the hungry nation.
“I have never seen such a thing in my life before. I know that God sent Mahlasedi officials here with a purpose. They have made many families happy. I don’t have enough words to thank them, and I wish that they should continue feeding others elsewhere,” Mathipa said.
The foundation’s chairperson, Pastor Bert Pretorius, said it had fed 9 000 families and was targeting more than 20 000.
“We have been working with this community for over 20 years. There is a tremendous need in our community, especially this time as people are not working.
“Through donations and backing from the private sector and with the Department of Social Development, we have managed to bring partners in to feed our community.
Part of the food that will be donated to residents of Olievenhoutbosch. (Ntwaagae Seleka)
“We have done our homework and noticed that trucks carrying food were being attacked elsewhere and we went to every house for five days registering them.
“We tagged everybody using their IDs and passports and we started feeding them. We divided the sections in days and this is our fourth day. For three days, everything went well and we are maintaining social distancing and screen people entering the school.
“Last night, there was a disinformation where somebody spread rumours that it was our last day of feeding people. People then became scared and everybody came today instead of following their respective dates of getting food,” said Pretorius.
He added there was some chaos on Saturday and with the help of the department and law enforcement officers, they managed to restore order.
Acting Social Development MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the government was winning the war against poverty though a collaboration with the private sector and donors.
He added measures were in place to fight poverty and the challenge was that the number of hungry people was huge.
“We are fast-tracking an arrangement to ensure that everyone who is unemployed get R350 during the lockdown. We are opening our offices for 24 hours to ensure that they receive social grants.
“We were worried when Mahlasedi approached us that they have enough stock to feed everyone and when we checked it, we found that indeed they have,” said Lesufi.
He called on people in the area to stop spreading false information.
“Officials from Mahlasedi have complied with our laws of distributing food. Their challenge is that the number is huge and they are distributing more than what the government can distribute here.
“We are appreciative, but we are under a serious lockdown that must be respected. Our worry is that if the virus can be in this community we are all in trouble,” said Lesufi.