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MEC warns of 'humanitarian crisis' in Cape, blames fake news for Tafelsig food protest

Tafelsig residents in desperate need of food protesting yesterday. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Tafelsig residents in desperate need of food protesting yesterday. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 15, 2020


Cape Town – Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez has highlighted the humanitarian crisis staring the Western Cape in the face due to the extension of the lockdown.

“Sassa yesterday processed 9 500 calls (nationally for food parcels). In our province yesterday, we processed 12 500 calls,” said Fernandez on Cape Talk, indicating that they usually receive around 2 500 calls a day. 

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“If that is any indication, we need more than R53 million (budget). We need a huge sum of money for the humanitarian crisis that is staring us in the face.” 

She also blamed fake news for the violent protest in Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain, yesterday.

According to police, around 1 000 Tafelsig East residents were upset that the community of Tafelsig West had allegedly been handed 150 food parcels by the ward councillor the previous day. Three men were arrested.

Tafelsig resident Liesl Manuel also indicated that residents were frustrated because no food parcels had been handed out to anyone since the start of the national lockdown. 

"We've been given a number where people can phone for a food parcel. It's a toll free number. People have done it (called the number), they get a reference number and they get told that within a week's time the (Western Cape) Department of Social Development will contact you back and do what needs to be done. 

"Up until today, three weeks into lockdown, nobody in this area where we are standing now has received one food parcel," Manuel said.

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Fernandez said: “What happened yesterday was the result of fake news. A communication went out that Sassa would be providing food parcels.

“In terms of the law, Sassa is actually mandated to provide the service. However, Sassa never pitched. 

“What instead happened was the City of Cape Town has a small social development component and they do various programmes.

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"Volunteers who run the programmes for the City used their own money and they cooked food for the individuals participating in the programme. Someone in the community went and spread the news that Sassa would be at that venue."

When the female volunteers from the City arrived to hand out the food, she said, they discovered that something had gone wrong, Fernandez said. 

"I need to touch on the impact of fake news on the psyche of one who is hungry and vulnerable and what they experience when their hopes are dashed.

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"Our R53 million was meant to last for a month and it was 50 000 parcels which were targeting individuals in a specific category and not food parcels for the nation. 

"It was sad when we realised how many people have fallen into the group of vulnerability by virtue of the lockdown extension," said Fernandez.

Premier Alan Winde has stated that of the budget of R53 million for food and nutritional support, around R20 million would provide 50 000 parcels.

The parcels are targeted at households where a family member had tested positive for Covid-19 and was in isolation or could not afford to sustain themselves.

They would also go to poverty-stricken people with chronic illnesses or families referred by a humanitarian relief organisation or a municipality. This includes people not yet in receipt of Sassa grants, like the disabled, who last received a grant in March, the elderly, child-headed houses and grant-awaiting beneficiaries.

Fernandez said the food gets delivered to the home of a recipient. You call into the call centre. There are two numbers to call: 0800 220 250 and 0860 142 142, which can also be used by people who want to make donations. 

You can also send a Please Call Me to 079 769 1207 to make a donation. Alternatively, you can email [email protected] or [email protected]

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