Airport officials carry the baggage of South Africans who were repatriated last week. Picture: Supplied
Airport officials carry the baggage of South Africans who were repatriated last week. Picture: Supplied

Repatriated Muslims say diet at Joburg quarantine site is anti-religion

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published May 18, 2020

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Johannesburg - An uproar has erupted over food being served at a Joburg quarantine site housing more than 103 repatriated South Africans.

Muslim South Africans brought back from Pakistan have complained about what they termed the lack of consideration for their religion, after being served breakfast.

The group landed back in South Africa on Thursday and have been placed in the “chaotic” quarantine site at Emperors Palace Peermont Metcourt and Mondior Hotel, east of Joburg.

The group of 103 people complained of food poisoning, despite handing over an extensive food-restrictions list to authorities.

Muslims abstain from eating pork products and only eat halaal food. They are currently observing and fasting for Ramadaan. Those who are fasting only eat before sunrise and after sunset.

Sajidah Manzoor, who helped co-ordinate the group’s return from the south Asian country and whose husband is at the quarantine site, said they asked the facility to supply meals for those fasting at 4.30am, and for those not fasting, mostly children, at about 7.30am.

“The people couldn’t eat their supper on Friday. It was completely off. It was some type of lentil meal. Most people just left it outside their rooms,” Manzoor said.

As a result of the meal, she said, seven of the guests became ill.

Her husband Saif had been in Pakistan visiting family when the government closed the borders. She had asked him to bring noodles and snacks back home. And this, she said, came to the rescue of the people held at the hotel.

“I asked him to bring a lot of snacks and noodles from Pakistan. I didn’t know they would help them. He distributed that among the children.

“When we tried speaking to the hotel management, we got no joy. On Saturday, they received the evening meal but most of it was unpalatable. 

“Some people started complaining of diarrhoea.

“The meals are extremely small potions, it’s like aeroplane food… More like snacking,” she said.

The last straw was on Sunday when at sunrise they were served bacon.

“I have personally made up this list with each person’s room number and what meal they want. The people who were supposed to get the halaal or vegetable meal got bacon for breakfast.

“One or two of them were unaware of this and ate it. That is totally unacceptable. We need urgent intervention,” Manzoor said.

The Peermont Metcourt and Mondior spokesperson Julie van Wyk said they partnered with the Department of Health to provide the quarantine sites.

“All meals comply with the menu specifications as set out by the Department of Health. The Department of Health has signed off on the off-site food supplier, including an accredited halaal supplier.

“The menu provides a selection of proteins both for normal diets, vegetarian, vegan… With starch and vegetable options and in line with the daily dietary calorie-intake requirements for adults that will not be active due to being confined to their rooms.

“Gluten and lactose-free meals are catered for those guests who request it. Times for catering have been amended to accommodate Muslim guests.”

She said guests are not permitted to leave their rooms, in line with quarantine requirements.

“Should a guest return a positive test for Covid-19, they will be safely moved to another facility for appropriate medical attention,” Van Wyk said.

So far, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) has facilitated the repatriation of over 3 400 South Africans stranded abroad since the start of the national lockdown in March.

It is unclear which government department is responsible for the Kempton Park site.

Dirco said they only deal with the repatriation of people to the country and the other departments take over once they land.

Public Works spokesperson Zara Nicholson said: “We’re not responsible for operations inside quarantine sites. That’s under the Health Department and the management at a particular site.”

National Health spokesperson Popo Molefe referred questions to the Gauteng health department, whose spokesperson Kwara Kekana said they only run four quarantine sites: Eskom, Transnet, Telkom and Nasrec. She said the Emperor’s Palace didn’t fall under them. 

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The Star

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