The spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic to South Africa has caused tremendous pressure on all South Africans but particularly on the vulnerable households that are facing temporary or permanent employment interruptions.
Food insecurity is, and, has become, a stark reality for many South African households, with approximately 50% of households living under the poverty line and not being able to afford basic healthy eating.
Most of the people also fall within the “low-income bracket” households that typically spend about a third of their total expenditure on food.
Food security is under pressure as farm murders increase, joined by the national unemployment rate increase of 30,1 per cent, or approximately 12 million people that are unemployed.
In the Eastern Cape Province the formal unemployment rate for the last quarter, January to March 2020, stands at 40,5%, and the expanded unemployment rate stands at 48,9%, meaning that approximately 1 million people are unemployed in the Eastern Cape.
In addition, the primary caretakers of these households now have more mouths to feed, including children that previously benefited from the National School Feeding Programme also relying on their primary caregivers for food.
Bearing testimony to the negative effect of COVID-19, the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) recorded as much as 900 calls per hour some days as the demand for food parcels increased because of the pandemic.
Shockingly, way before the Covid-19 lockdown, the Department of Social Development (DSD) also acknowledged and told the country that “in 2018, close to one million households had severely inadequate access to food and another 2.5 million households had inadequate access to food”.
Armed with this acknowledgement, the Department could have harnessed various partnerships to ensure that, during the lockdown, all possible, safe, and well-coordinated efforts are made to reach the most vulnerable in delivering much-needed food parcels.
As we find ourselves in the grip of the greatest health emergency our country has faced in over a century, we are witnessing theft of food.
Food meant for COVID-19 unemployed, the vulnerable, the destitute and sick.
It is also disheartening to hear that poor quality food parcels are being given to the people coupled with maladministration and collusion in the distribution of food parcels to the poor in our province.
And due to that, some food parcel recipients in the Eastern Cape are calling for food vouchers, after receiving food parcels infested with weevils.
Angry residents shared a video on social media showing contaminated food, saying they felt dehumanised by the ruling party’s food parcels.
Madam Speaker, there are various reports highlighting the delays by officials to distribute donated food parcels or even to get NGO’s involved.
In the town of Cradock, the local Spar had donated 300 food parcels for distribution to the needy in their community.
But for days in April, the food languished in a local community centre despite the fact that the parcels included perishable vegetables.
What had happened was that the Spar donation had been handed over to the local municipality, as per lockdown regulations.
Reason being local government officials didn’t take responsibility for getting the food out to the people in need.
I have also received numerous reports since the start of COVID-19 of corruption pertaining to food parcel distribution for electioneering.
I am sure that all members are aware of the well-documented reports from across South Africa that politicians and officials were involved in distributing food parcels to family, friends and ANC supporters.
In some cases, food parcels were even sold to the people that should receive it for free.
This kind of irresponsible conduct by politicians and government officials who should be serving the people of our province with dignity and respect should be investigated.
The DA condemns this disgusting behaviour and reiterate our call for the Department of Social Development to probe these allegations and to hold the guilty parties to account.
On the 14 April, the ANC provincial chairperson and Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, distanced the ruling party from claims of food parcel corruption and vowed to “stop the rot” if anyone is found guilty.
Can the premier please provide us with factual, verifiable information, that he has indeed detected, investigated and dealt with these claims or will he just like other premiers before him, hide the rot, in order to spare his political party the embarrassment.
Madam Speaker, I want to tell the House, that the ANC is squarely to blame for the unemployment, hunger and COVID-19 corruption that our people are experiencing today in our province.
The ruling party has failed to ensure that there are proper, effective measures in place to mitigate and reduce opportunities for food parcel corruption.
This failure of the ruling party is due to weak leadership, incompetence, race-based politics and an enormous appetite to eat and drink-up the people’s food money.
Our province is not just the epicentre of the pandemic, but it has become the epicentre of corruption.
Madam Speaker, given all of the above frustration, pain and suffering that was caused by the ruling party in its bad management of the pandemic, there is still hope for South Africans.
Their hope lies in a political party that doesn’t divide people based on race or a party that gives jobs to family, friends and crony connections.
Their hope lies in punishing the ANC at the next election, and to reward the DA for good governance by voting us into government.
A DA-led provincial government is the only hope for our province!
Honourable Speaker, DA governments COVID-19 food parcel distribution is successful because across the board they have partnered with local NGO’s, grass-roots organisations, private donors, farmers and businesses to ensure food relief flows to the most vulnerable communities.
We don’t fight with civil society organisations, we don’t exclude them, we trust them, we appreciate them, and we include them in our plans in order to put the people’s needs first.
In the DA-led Western Cape Provincial government, we have introduced food parcel vouchers because when used correctly it can be very convenient as people will buy what they need, when they need it.
The DA’s Western Cape Government’s humanitarian cluster is giving dignity to its people as it will be reporting on their food data strategic review, and they will release a paper on lessons of food vouchers.
They are also moving to support local economies by using vouchers linked to community kitchens in 20 clusters and about 200 soup kitchens.
Our DA governments will strive to provide even more nutritious food that can ensure better health outcomes that will reach beyond the pandemic.
In conclusion, the DA is of the strong view that councillors and politicians in general, should not be involved in the distribution of food parcels, cash payments or distribution of food vouchers as it creates conditions for looting and political abuse.
The people of the Eastern Cape can bring change about by punishing the ANC for its corrupt tendencies come the 2021 local government elections.
I thank you.