Activists report on the problems related to food as the community confronts the Corona Virus Pandemic.

We can’t stay indoors and die of hunger

Under the lockdown people are unable to go out to find work and this can mean starvation for many. It is difficult for people to observe the lockdown when they have to find ways of putting food on the table. Wastepickers, for example are prevented from working and even if they ignore the lockdown the scrapyards where they sell their recyclables are closed during the lockdown.

Thokozile Mntambo from Thulani Snake-Park (Soweto) writes:

Waste pickers in the area still continue to look for recyclables because that’s the only way they make a living. It’s really hard for them to survive in this lock down because scrapyards are closed and no one is assisting them with food parcels. They can’t stay indoors and die of hunger. They must go outside and try to find something to eat. This is one of the most vulnerable townships, low- income black women and children living with disabilities are the most marginalised and displaced. They will suffer the most highest risk of devastating losses from covid-19

Amo from Sefikile Village, Moses Kotane Local Municipality North West Province  People who are depending on piece jobs its hard for them now to put bread on the table as we all know that no movement. Builders also got affected by this lockdown too as they also can’t do anything and we all know what that means, no food on the table again. Now, how many homes have no food on the table because of corona virus?

Promise B Mabilo from Empumelelwen , EMalahleni Mpumalanga:

Lot of people around the area are not working at all depending on social grant, some they are not working and don’t have the social grant , they depend on piece jobs, it is a very difficult time really.

Those who don’t have pay relying on grants also are in a bad situation as staying at home you have to spend more than usually eat now and again the grant is not enough to sustain the situation and the days of the lockdown not moving and try something to add on it. This is what is happening in our area Mpumalanga eMalahleni

Food Parcels is a relief for families but who should get this benefit.

Government has started giving food parcels but there are problems with the selection of who receives food parcels. People who receive grants and pensions are excluded, even though the grants are not enough to survive on and people receiving grants usually manage by doing piece work e.g. as domestic workers or street vendors. With the lockdown they are unable to do these jobs. So it seems unfair that they do not get government food parcels.

Tokelo Mahlakoane, Sekhukhune District in Limpopo , 9 March 2020:  

I went to the Social Workers office where people from different villages were called to come and take food parcels. What worries me is this, the selection of those people was unfair. They said a person who is not qualified is a person who gets a grant. But when we check our mothers even our sisters who have children get grant and they are the people who are suffering and taking care of the entire family.

Phindile Ngobeni , Ikemeleng Kroondal:

I received a call to collect food parcels for myself and my family. I just want to give thanks to the organisation to help me on hard time of lockdown. I give thanks to all people are helping me since I come back from prison, Because life is not easy for me I can’t even get job because of criminal record.

Gilbert Moela from Sekhukhune, Limpopo

The Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) established what I would personally term COVID-19 Solidarity Awareness Campaign and Soup Kitchen. Using the resources available to us at the time, MACUA established this initiative and we will continue to provide many families with food parcels as they need. Most of the beneficiaries on the organisation’s database are pensioners, widows and persons living with disability and are not able to sustain their families. The items in the food parcels are sufficient to feed a family of 4 for about 3 weeks.

Transport and the other problems of buying food

Food for grant receiving families runs out before the next grant is due, and some families have had to make more than one trip to get their grants – in one case people were turned away for two days in a row before getting their grant on the third day.

People in many cases have had to travel outside of their communities to buy food. Spaza shops, in particular those run by foreigners, were forced to close. In some cases spaza shops closed because they could not get stock. In some cases these shops gave goods on credit and this enabled families to meet their survival needs. Now that they were closed families had to travel further, but also had to have cash in hand. Added to their troubles were increases in both taxi fares and in prices of basic foods.

Tintswalo Mnisi from Empumelelwe Malahleni Mpumalanga :

The Pakistanis that my father used to get credit from and payed back month end, they were closed and the one that was operating during this lockdown were at Mariti , he had to take a taxi to get to him. And the local taxi had increased fares by R5 which is R15 and when he get there he found a long queue just waiting to buy 50kg super maize meal with R350 that we used to buy it with R280…so many things are expensive. We can’t even afford…and we can’t even eat healthy food that can boost our immune system which is very vital in this time of need…

Restrictions on the numbers of people that can travel in taxis during the lockdown also cause problems for people. Social distancing requirements mean that there are long queues at shops.

Fransina Nkosi, Shongoane, Lephalale Municipality:

We are facing a serious challenge. It’s either the shop is empty or the shop is closed as they can’t go stock because of lockdown .

Phahladira mall is far from our places, for you to get there you need transport ..not everyone is able to walk long distances , people need to go there so they can buy some groceries . Then when you get there you find long queues awaits you. Taxis are allowed to take less people (Quantum 7 people)and (Crafters 11 people)

Marapong , Lephalale Municipality, Limpopo:
Spaza Shops are closed and they are forced to buy at Marapong Complex and they are forced to stand on the queue for more than 1 hour before they can be able to buy. Reason of taking so long it’s because they are using the strategy of 1 meter away from the next person and they only take ten people after some several minutes.

Mmabore Mogashoa from Jane furse plaza in Makhuduthamaga Local Municipality

Food store queues are very long but people are maintaining the distance and workers from the shops comes and checks if people are standing in the right positions. Elderly people were taken out of the queues to the shops which is a good thing to do. I also saw few trucks delivering to the stores. People are also selling fruits, vegetables, tobacco, salt and other food outside the gates. There is one shop on the main road that gives customers wipes to use as masks and most of the people are not wearing masks. The only problem is people take off the masks and put them back. Another problem is people who are done shopping had to sit down at the taxi rank with their groceries waiting for taxis to come in the evening. If there were taxis maybe after 12/13h00 (Taxis in the morning, after 12h00 and 16h00) the number of the people at Plaza will be less. By Mmabore Mogashoa

Mpho Tjale from Mokopane:

There was a high visibility of community members at Mahwelereng shopping complex, there were only two supermarkets operating and there was also few police officials at the shopping complex, community members were arranged nicely on the queue and some were seated on the chairs taking the social distance into consideration, only 50 customers were allowed to get into the shop at once and they were given 5 minutes to get whatever they needed so that other customers can also have a chance to do their shopping.

Transport became a very serious challenge for customers who finished do their shopping after 9am, as public transport stops operating at 9am and continued again at 16:00 in the evening, some members had to walk a distance from 200M to 1 kilometre away from road-block conducted by traffic police officials and to hitch hike any car that might take them to their respective homestead. Other members had to walk such distance carrying too many plastics of groceries.

Magaret,  Mokopane:
Spaza shop are open we are able to go buy bread due to transport is operating for those who are able to go to town but it has started today for those who get grant they are able to go to town. The challenge of granny who selling on the stress is a challenge because some of use depending of that salary if government can provide food parcel to help poors.

 Promise Mabilo , Emalahleni in Vosman, Ezinambeni , Mpumalanga

the locations and Empumelelweni are facing a big struggle of shops not opened and the abuse of being threatened and being locked up if found on the streets during patrols. The shops are closed and there is no stock as the shop owners are not allowed to go buy stock in town, they are told that they need permits to open their shops and also need permits to go to stock goods.

Victoria , Sekhukhune: 

Today a policeman took us out from the taxi . They arrested the taxi driver because he left at taxi rank at 15.50 and not 16:00. We were forced to walk a long distance back to the taxi rank. This is a story from my neighbour. She is from Burgersfort town.

Shop Workers fear Infection

For those who are essential workers and who are allowed to go to work there is the threat and worry of being infected and of infected their families

eMalahleni, Mpumalanga :

I am a cashier, working at Pick and Pay. That put me at risk every time I go to work. But what worries me the most is that i might get infected by people without knowing and when I get back home I may  infect  my family. So I try my best to be safe as possible and sanitise my hands and don’t touch my face at all.