Cape Town. 120510. Juliana Smit handing out food at the Mandela Park soup kitchen in Delft. Reporter Quinton. Picture Courtney Africa
Cape Town. 120510. Juliana Smit handing out food at the Mandela Park soup kitchen in Delft. Reporter Quinton. Picture Courtney Africa

Unemployed to work for food aid

Time of article published May 11, 2012

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Quinton Mtyala

Political Writer

IF YOU are able-bodied, unemployed and between 18 and 40, you might need to do a bit of work to be able to benefit from a food aid handout.

That is the new strategy from the Western Cape department of social development – getting recipients of food aid to work in their communities. But this has been criticised by non-governmental organisations and the ANC.

However, at a Delft feeding scheme those standing in line waiting for their only meal of the day said they would be prepared to work.

Social Development MEC Albert Fritz said the change in policy came about because previous attempts at addressing hunger across the Western Cape had been ineffective, and in many instances the aid never reached its intended recipients.

He said his department had a nutrition programme which funded churches and NGOs to cook food for the poor. The funding to many of these institutions was cut, and currently there are 28 forensic investigations being conducted.

Nasheema Ismail, who runs a feeding scheme in Delft, said they didn’t just feed people but also required them to attend classes on raising their families.

“Many of the 450 people we feed daily can’t work,” said Ismail.

But Moegsien Manuel, 36, who had stood in line to receive his meal of spaghetti and chicken said he would be prepared to work.

Natano Stevens, 38, said he didn’t have a problem with being required to work.

“I need a bit of money and some food. I’ve been unemployed since 1996,” said Stevens.

Fritz said:

“People will be required to work in their communities to get food vouchers, and we’ll be starting off with two pilot programmes in Atlantis and Nyanga.

“We are going to look at the unemployed guys from 17, 18 and up to 40 who are able-bodied,” said Fritz.

In Atlantis, those receiving food aid will be required to clear alien vegetation.

“Imagine if we cut down all the alien vegetation. The guys will be able to get a stipend and some food,” said Fritz.

The system he’s hoping to apply is borrowed from a similar Brazilian model, which aims to get people working and not depending on the government.

“What I’m afraid of is that we are unwittingly perpetuating poverty. I’m liaising with a number of people, and also looking at Chrysalis graduates to start cooking along with staff from the Saartjie Baartman Centre in Manenberg, which has a big kitchen.

“By July we should have rolled out the programme,” said Fritz.

But provincial chairwoman of the SA National NGO Coalition Damaris Kiewitz said NGOs and communities weren’t consulted about the new policy.

Kiewitz said a concern from her organisation was how this new policy would be managed, and who would employ people receiving food aid.

“Over the past two years 80 percent of funding to NGOs has been cut, leaving many without the ability to service communities in need,” said Kiewitz. And while creating employment was a laudable goal, sustaining these projects would be more difficult.

“What difference will this make. Will it give them skills?” asked Kiewitz.

The ANC’s spokeswoman on social development Zodwa Magwaza said Fritz’s plan was highhanded, saying food aid should not be linked to providing cheap labour.

“Why should poor people be doing the work that should be done by the City of Cape Town?” she asked.

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