A day of stone throwing and looting in some parts of Cape Town could explain how some people are battling to find food during the lockdown, a Cape Town councillor on the Cape Flats said on Wednesday.
“A man told me ‘I would rather die of Covid-19 than of hunger’,” ANC Ward 22 councillor Bongani Ngcani told News24. “People are looking all over for food.”
A portion of Tafelsig in Mitchells Plain falls within his ward.
Ngcani spent Wednesday morning in a meeting with a group of people coming to grips with why people threw stones and blocked AZ Berman Drive in Tafelsig on Tuesday, and why shops were stormed in Gatesville and Manenberg.
He said it was quite simply all about food: not having any, and waiting for food parcels to be delivered.
“This thing caught everybody by surprise. Now that everybody is at home all day, they have no food left.”
Due to the lockdown, only essential service workers are allowed to work, and streets, which are normally bustling with small enterprises and hawkers, are quiet. The police patrol the streets and order people lingering at their gates to go inside.
Everybody except essential service workers were at home, said Ngcani, and their cupboards were bare.
“Remember, these are people who are already poor.”
He added the protest in Tafelsig on Tuesday seemed to be sparked by three food hampers being dropped off to households in the area.
Equally desperate neighbours saw this, and wanted to know where their food hampers were.
“People got angry,” said Ngcani.
The situation escalated and police, army and metropolitan policing units were called in to defuse the situation, with rubber bullets popping as stone-throwing residents were charged by the units.
Ngcani said the Western Cape government announced it had set aside R53 million for emergency food supplies, but it had not reached residents yet.
According to a provincial Department of Social Development statement, 50 000 food parcels would last the designated households one month, and that children, who were usually fed at schools or creches would still get food.
Ngcani had prepared 30 food hampers out of his ward funding allocation, consisting of maize meal and other basic food items, and distributed 10 each in three different parts of his ward, but this was nowhere near what is needed.
At the meeting to discuss Tuesday’s protest in Mitchells Plain, it emerged in just one small pocket of that constituency, 500 people are already going hungry.
“They said their SA Social Security (Sassa) grant does not even last a week,” Ngcani said.
Residents attending a debriefing on Wednesday said even if they followed the process to get a food parcels it was taking too long to get to them.
They added they also did not have money for airtime or data to get their names on a database.
Call on Sassa to reopen offices
The department said Tuesday’s unrest showed the need for clarity over food parcels, and also called on Sassa to reopen its offices, which it closed on 30 March.
This means people cannot go to its offices to ask for help as they would normally have done. Sassa services were suspended until 16 April, which is when the original lockdown was due to end.
However, the lockdown has been extended to the end of April.
Sassa has asked people in need to call the toll-free number, 0800 60 10 11, PostBank call centre number 0800 53 5455 or email: email@example.com for any grants-related enquiries.
News24 has asked the national department for feedback on how many people have asked for food, and this will be added when received.
In the meantime, the Western Cape Department of Social Development said while it had nothing to do with the distribution of food parcels in Tafelsig, the protests demonstrated frustration and desperation among people.
“It also indicates that there is persistent misinformation that has been circulated about food parcels,” it added.
The qualifying criteria for its food parcels include households affected by Covid-19 infections, like in a household where a family member has tested positive for Covid-19 and cannot sustain themselves because of that.
Other criteria is whether a person who is on medication or who suffers from a chronic illness and have insufficient means to sustain themselves. Another criteria is whether a person and their household who have insufficient means to sustain themselves during the lockdown period who was referred by a registered humanitarian relief agency, registered NPO or a municipal manager.
A person who lives in the Western Cape can apply by contacting a municipal call centre, municipal manager, humanitarian relief agency, or registered NPO are routed to social workers.
Information given to one of those is then added to a central database, followed by a telephonic assessment by one of the social workers, and screening of the person’s ID against Sassa’s database to check whether the person is an existing grant or food recipient.
Once a prospective beneficiary is confirmed as meeting the criteria, they are then contacted by the department and given details of when delivery will take place.
Anybody who wants to donate food in the province can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.