The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to recommend five measures Government can implement to address and mitigate the increasing levels of hunger across the country.
Most South Africans, particularly those living in poor communities, have not had an income for the past 20 days due to the Covid-19 lockdown. This means that millions of South Africans are now staring utter desolation and hunger in the face as they are unable to go out and find work to put food on the table.
The DA will, therefore, call on Government to implement the following 5 measures to mitigate the impact of the lockdown on food security and to address the growing levels of hunger across the country:
1. ‘Smart Lockdown”
The DA continues to call on government to consider our Smart Lockdown model urgently and integrate it in their planning to ensure that we save lives and livelihoods during this crisis. The DA’s smart lockdown model would see some sectors of the economy re-opening safely. This will result in a flood of wages and income into poor households which will bring much-needed relief.
2. R 1000 grant top-up for all grant recipients for three months
The DA proposes a R 1000 grant top-up for all grant recipients for three months. For millions of households across the country, a social grant is often the only guaranteed source of income. With the extension of the current lockdown, many homes will be in desperate need of extra cash to put food on the table. An additional R 1000 top-up could possibly be the difference between a family going hungry or not.
3. Re-open SASSA offices
The DA calls on the Department of Social Development (DSD) to re-open and capacitate SASSA offices across the country in order to process the influx of relief applications. The number of people that have called SASSA’s national call centre for relief rose from 3 000 to 150 000 per day during this lockdown. Due to the current lockdown measures, SASSA does not have enough staff to coordinate food delivery as well as to field, vet and process applications due to the sheer volume of people applying for relief.
4. Re-open soup kitchens
SASSA is clearly ill-equipped to process and distribute food parcel at the large scale that is required during this pandemic. The DA, therefore, proposes that municipalities, that have the necessary capacity and funding, re-open local soup kitchens in accordance with strict social distancing protocols. This will ease a lot of the pressure on SASSA and will provide meals to distressed households.
5. Investigate corruption
There have been numerous reports since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown of corruption pertaining to food parcel distribution for electioneering. Recently, we have seen reports of Gauteng DSD officials and some politicians allegedly stealing and unfairly distributing food parcels exclusively in ANC Wards in the Emfuleni Local Municipality. There have been similar reports in the Eastern Cape where ANC officials are allegedly prioritising ANC members for food parcels. The DA condemns this disgusting behaviour and reiterate our call for the Department to probe these allegations and to hold the guilty parties to account.
As the lockdown continues, multitudes find themselves choosing between the risk of suffering from a terrifying virus or suffering from hunger. Already we have seen desperate people looting all over the country. While some were surely common criminals, it is not unreasonable to expect the large majority looted so that they would not have to see family members starve.
Unfortunately, the measures that Government put in place are laughably inadequate and difficult to access. While the provision of social relief during a disaster is ultimately a mandate of the DSD – the management and distribution of this relief is the responsibility of SASSA. However, due to capacity constraints, corruption and a small Social Relief of Distress budget– many local authorities have had to step up and fill the gap left by SASSA.
DA governments across the country who have stepped up and gone above their mandates order to provide much need relief and support to desolate communities during the lockdown.
- Western Cape Provincial Government: The Western Cape Department of Social Development has taken the decision to re-prioritise a total of R35 million of its budget to provide 20 000 hot meals per day at 92 feeding sites and distribute 50 000 food parcels which will last families of 4/5 for up to a month.
- City of Cape Town: Following SASSA’s failure to pitch to deliver food parcels in Mitchells Plain on Tuesday, the Metro’s social development unit stepped in to provide food parcels.
- George Municipality: The municipality is running 136 soup kitchens per day and has instituted donation drop off centres in accordance with Covid-19 measures, with donations going straight to soup kitchens.
- Drakenstein Municipality: Existing soup kitchens continue to operate to provide food to the poor.
- Garden Route District Municipality: The municipality has availed R 500 000 in funds for food parcels.
- Hessequa Local Municipality: The municipality has availed R 100 000 in funds for food parcels
- Modimolle-Mookgophong and Kouga Municipalities: The mayors of these municipalities have engaged with local businesses to source hundred thousands of Rands in donations for food parcels.
DA-led governments across the board have partnered with local NGO’s, organisations, private donors, farmers and businesses to ensure food relief flows to the most vulnerable communities. The DA commends these governments, who have stepped up to provide much-needed relief to communities in need. We urge the DSD and Government to consider our proposals in order to avoid mass food insecurity across the nation.