DURBAN - eThekwini Municipality has been slated after they pulled the brakes on a feeding project that sought to skill and empower homeless people living on streets in the city.
Residents took to social media to lambaste the city after it was revealed that the city had pulled the plug on the Samuels Siza Foundation project - a feeding and skills development programme that assisted the homeless.
The Samuels Siza Foundation was launched earlier this year by the Samuels Service Centre after seeing the need to uplift the less fortunate in the community.
The project was set out in two phases. According to the foundation, the first phase saw the beggars dressed in red T-shirts, asking residents to take a photograph of them and load to social media platforms. The beggars were given a meal for the day and a stipend based on how many times their photographs appeared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
The second phase then sought to equip the beggars with skills on how to maintain a garden.
According to the foundation’s Facebook page, beggars were earning a weekly pay from growing and maintaining gardens and planting trees in designated garden areas.
“Our teams will teach them gardening, weeding, planting, cleaning, recycling etc. in order to make their gardens beautiful and our City will look all the better for it. We can all do our bit,” the foundation said.
They called for support and endorsement from the city, their stakeholders and the public.
However, according to the foundation’s Darin Samuels, in order to continue with their second phase of the programme, they required permission from city management to grow the gardens.
“We met with deputy mayor Fawzia Peer in an effort to collaborate with the city for mutual benefit. Given the city’s vision to make Durban the most caring and liveable city, we approached the meeting with excitement. Regrettably, Metro Police, members of the Urban Improvement Precinct and the deputy mayor herself had violent object to our programme,” he said.
Samuels said at the end of the meeting they were instructed to stop the programme.
“We were told to stop feeding them and not to employ the beggars nor to pay them If we did not comply with the instruction, we would face stiff penalties. We then decided to temporarily stop the programme,” Samuels said.
To date, the foundation has not managed to get a follow up meeting with city officials.
Beggar, Daniel Kruger, has said he is upset that the programme was halted.
Kruger, who can often be found at the intersection of Umgeni and Sandile Thusi roads, said he was able to earn a salary for almost three months.
“It has been about a week since the programme has stopped and now we are back to begging for money. At least with the programme, we had a meal and some money to get by,” he said.
According to city spokesperson, Msawakhe Mayisela, while Samuels’s presentation was noted by the municipality, the merits of the programme should have been initially deliberated with the relevant units and metro police.
“A meeting was then held with the foundation and relevant stakeholders where two critical points were raised. These were about begging at intersections which contravenes the Nuisances and Behaviour in Public bylaw - as begging is illegal - and asking people to take photographs on a cellphone while driving is an infringement of the National Road Traffic Act,” he said.