Humanitarian crisis is looming and SA is not prepared, says Herman Mashaba
JOHANNESBURG - Recent reports of escalating looting of grocery shops throughout South Africa point to a looming crisis in food security for the most vulnerable people in the country, The People’s Dialogue founder Herman Mashaba said on Sunday.
Millions of South African households depended on income from informal work, and this work had ceased under the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown regulations. Without this income, many households faced the stark reality of starvation in the confines of their homes or shacks, Mashaba said in a statement.
"In an effort to prevent deaths related to Covid-19, we have placed vulnerable households at risk of starvation and malnutrition. It should be clearly understood that people suffering from malnutrition and starvation will be more vulnerable to the symptoms of Covid-19," he said.
"In recent days we have seen a rise in reports of arrests for non-compliance with the lockdown regulations, and looting of stores, driven by the desperation of those facing starvation."
The reality was that the regulations governing the lockdown were forcing many South Africans to choose between starvation or breaking the law. Anyone under these circumstances would do what was necessary to feed their family.
The challenge that arose from this situation was the likelihood of potential widespread breaches of the regulations governing the lockdown, where the vulnerable in society would "face the brutality" of law enforcement and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
Mashaba said he would write to President Cyril Ramaphosa and make certain proposals, including the reconsideration of regulations which continued to safeguard both the health of citizens and their ability to earn a basic household income.
Also necessary were an expansive roll-out of a food security programme that would ensure that those people unable to earn a basic living did not face the reality of starvation, and directives to law enforcement agencies and the SANDF to exercise restraint in their enforcement of the regulations of the lockdown.
"Without these steps being taken with urgency, South Africa is likely to see a combination of lockdown breaches, starvation, and brutality meted out to the most vulnerable in our society. This is a humanitarian crisis we cannot afford," Mashaba said.