REPORT: KZN’s poor starve as food hampers sold, stolen by officials
Despite many allegations of the “politicisation” and looting of food hampers in KwaZulu-Natal, the Department of Social Development remains adamant that only councillors can provide an authentic report of needy people in the province.However, Durban community activist Mary de Haas and head of Gift of the Givers Imtiaz Sooliman warned that using councillors to distribute food hampers “was the worse thing” and “not working in most areas”.
Chairperson of Ubunye Bamahostela, Vusi Zweni, said they represented more than 350 000 hostel dwellers, who were “starving”.He claimed food parcels from councillors only reached friends and those affiliated with their political party.
During a portfolio committee meeting yesterday, KZN Social Development MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza conceded they had received several complaints about the looting of food hampers meant for the poor and that councillors were politicising or benefiting financially from its distribution.However, she said there had been no formal incident report opened.
She said councillors needed to be held accountable by the speakers from the various municipalities, who enforced the code of conduct.“We cannot move away from the fact that councillors have been elected by communities. It is therefore the councillors responsibility to provide us with an authentic report of who needs food parcels in their community,” she said.
To date the department had spent an estimated R7 million on the distribution of food parcels in KZN.Acting head at the department of social development, Sbu Ngubane, said the demand for food parcels had increased excessively in recent weeks and they were working around the clock to ensure delivery was quick.
According to a report submitted by the department to the portfolio committee, efforts to distribute the food hampers in the province was being done jointly with the SA Social Security Agency, the Action Development Agency and municipalities.The report said a nerve centre had also been created at local, district and provincial levels to co-ordinate and monitor the application process and distribution of food parcels.
“There are some places where we are experiencing challenges but we are pushing very hard to ensure that all the districts work hard to meet the demand,” said Ngubane.
De Haas said the department needed to come up with a strategy of doing follow-ups to ensure that food parcels were actually received by communities.
She said that a lack of tracing and accounting by the department had seen councillors taking advantage of the situation.“There must be a list that will be monitored and audited by the department. In that way, they would make sure that every food parcel that’s issued out is accounted for. The recipient must sign on the list and add their contact details,” said De Haas.
She added government needs to ensure accountability from councillors as people were near starvation in many areas.“A man from a local hostel told me yesterday (Wednesday), that all he had for the day was four dry slices of bread given to him by the neighbour. In all districts in KZN, people are not happy. Some councillors want to do good but you find that there is not enough food parcels for everyone,” she said.
She said that many NPOs and NGOs in the provinces are running out of resources while councillors are not meeting them halfway. Sooliman said that using councillors was the worse thing and was not working in most areas.He said while there were good councillors, others were using this opportunity as a means to put themselves forward ahead of the upcoming local government election.
“The political leadership has a responsibility to ensure that the population is taken care of. Right now, the population is in a mess. Communities are hungry, vulnerable and don’t have jobs. This is a very stressful situation psychologically and emotionally,” said Sooliman.“Government officials and councillors are getting salaries and they should do their job properly,” he added.
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