Madam Speaker, Hon Premier, members of the executive, members of the Provincial Legislature, officials from different Governmental Departments, dignitaries, invited guests and the warm people of the Chris Hani district. I humbly greet you.
When the president announced that the country would be under a national lockdown from 27 March 2020, we all knew that things would be a bit different. We also knew that there would be a sharp increase of people who would become reliant on the government for essential items such as food, housing and income, for those who were not deemed essential workers.
Let’s not take anything away from the efforts that were shown by the government. This was new territory for the world and South Africa, and there was very little time to prepare for the increase in demands.
But, with that being said, there was a lot that the government could have done better to fully support the millions of people in our country, and province, whose lives changed drastically due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
Madam Speaker, in the Eastern Cape, people who were to become reliant on the government for the provision of food, experienced a rollercoaster ride, and not one that produced joy and laughter. Instead, it produced panic, fear and desperation.
There have been reports of thousands of people who applied for food parcels, whose request was granted, but never actually received their parcels.
There were homeless shelters who were provided with food supplies for a few weeks and then the contract with the organization who prepared and delivered food was cancelled and shelters had to rely on donations, which was not guaranteed on a daily basis.
Many reports surfaced from shelters stating that the food was of poor quality and many of it had to be thrown away, meaning the most vulnerable did not eat that day.
Madam Speaker, as humans, we need daily essentials, of which food is one of them. The government failed in feeding every hungry mouth. There were reports that food parcels were delivered to the houses of councillors, and these food parcels did not reach those in need in the communities.
The people of the Eastern Cape has lost trust in a government who is meant to have the needs of the people they are responsible for at the forefront at all times. This was not the case in this regard.
I have written countless letters to the MEC about my concerns regarding food parcel costing, applications, and delivery. Even though I did receive responses to some of my concerns, it seemed that when things heated up, the responses stopped.
Madam Speaker, I understand that the MEC and the government were thrown in the deep end with the onset of the national lockdown. This was a golden opportunity to show South Africa and the people of the Eastern Cape that they are a capable government. Unfortunately, it once again highlighted the exact opposite, but this time, on a magnified level.
The inflated cost of the food parcels resulted in fewer food parcels being procured, meaning that less people in need could be supplied with food. This is not what a responsible and caring government does. These are not signs of a capable government.