On Monday, 5th of May 2020, I wrote to the National Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, requesting that she urgently rejects the proposed draft directions on the distribution of food aid.
It has been a week since I wrote to the National Minister of Social Development, and to date I have had no response from her National department. In the interim, we have become aware that the draft directions have already been implemented in some other provinces to a lesser or greater degree.
We are increasingly seeing the food efforts of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) being shut down, despite of the fact that they follow all of the COVID 19 health protocols.
In such unprecedented times, we need to look at what is best for the livelihoods of all our people, particularly our most vulnerable citizens.
I remain concerned about some of the other requirements in the proposed draft directions, besides the ban on cooked food.
These other concerns include, amongst others:
- The requirement that provincial departments of Social Development issue permits to all NGOs that wish to provide food aid would be virtually impossible to implement, since there are tens of thousands of organisations and private individuals in neighbourhoods in every province of this country. Provincial departments do not have the capacity to issue permits to every one of these organisations and individuals or to co-ordinate them as contemplated in the draft directives. This is likely to lead to delays in food distribution.
- The South African Police Service does not have the capacity to be involved in every food provision operation in the province, as their workforce too has been affected by COVID 19, impacting the number of officers on duty at any one time. The forty-eight-hour notice exacerbates the situation. People are hungry and cannot wait on Government protocols, that have yet to be tested. Furthermore, SAPS is likely to take a hard line against individuals without permits, as they have done so thus far with people perceived to be in violation of exercising regulations, cigarette bans, and curfews. This will further displace policing capacity into an area which will not significantly assist with the reduction of COVID transmission, while queue management at shops, SASSA, Public Transport Interchanges and Labour Offices is a far higher risk and priority.
- The requirement that all food be delivered door-to-door for beneficiaries, which is outside of the logistical capability of many smaller NGOs and neighbourhood feeding schemes. Moreover, the capacity of the state and NGO sector to deliver food parcels door to door is limited and not geared for rapid distribution. It is proving to be risky because people hi-jack the delivery vehicles or block access resulting in protests, preventing entire communities from receiving food parcels. We have experienced this first hand in our Province.
It is in the public’s best interest that the directions adopted are clear and practical, so that food aid can reach the people who are in most need, in the easiest and safest way.