Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for harsh action against government functionaries who are found to have been party to allegations of misappropriation and hoarding of food parcels during the coronavirus national lockdown.
This comes as the government’s programme of distributing food parcels to the poor throughout the country continues to be marred by allegations of large scale looting, with intended beneficiaries either getting far less than the budgeted allocation or not getting food at all while they are reported to have benefitted.
In his weekly letter, Ramaphosa described the reports as both disturbing and disgusting.
“A number of provinces have received reports that callous individuals, some of them allegedly government officials, are hoarding or selling food parcels earmarked for the needy and destitute, or diverting them to their friends and families. If there is found to be substance to these allegations we will deal with the individuals concerned harshly,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa admitted that while the country’s stark inequalities revealed by the Covid-19 lockdown – which saw some live in comfort and plenty while others battled at the margins to survive with little or nothing at all – were created by the country’s colonial and apartheid past, they also due to major failures of the government.
“Yes, these are the residual effects of a fractured and unequal past. But they are also a symptom of a fundamental failing in our post-apartheid society. The nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus has gravely exacerbated a long-standing problem,” Ramaphosa said.
The SACP in Gauteng, where most of the allegations were reported, also weighed in on the food parcel looting scandal, saying it was undermining the effort to cushion the poor who were forced to stay at home with no food to sustain them.
The party called on the provincial government to urgently take steps to ensure that the food parcels reached their intended recipients.
“Furthermore, we appeal that criminal charges must be laid against the culprits, where there is clear evidence of a violation of the processes to distribute food to vulnerable families,” the SACP said.
* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's special #Coronavirus page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za