Cape Flats activist to take Ramaphosa to Concourt over hunger crisis in country
Cape Town – President Cyril Ramaphosa will be taken to the Constitutional Court to explain his failure to address the hunger crisis in the country, labelled ’’the biggest humanitarian crisis of modern history’’.
This was stated on Thursday to IOL by Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain, activist Joanie Fredericks, five months after reaching out to Ramaphosa in desperation to send food to communities across South Africa.
Having lost faith in the President’s Office to adhere to its commitment to set up a meeting, Fredericks expects more people to die from hunger than Covid-19. She also fears hungry and disenchanted people will resort to violence now that they can move around more freely under lockdown level 2.
She had sent a video message to Ramaphosa at the start of the lockdown, which went viral, and is also one of the organisers behind the Dear Mr President video project, on behalf of thousands of other soup kitchens and food activists across South Africa, which tells the collective stories of desperate communities. Fredericks had intended to deliver this video personally to the president last week with comedian Marc Lottering.
However, she posted on Facebook that the video and song What About the People, written by Lottering and performed by Craig Lucas, ’’wasn't enough to move Mr President’’.
’’In fact, all he has ever done in his irregular addresses to the people was to pat himself on the back about his handling of the hunger crises, like an ostrich putting his head in the sand, hoping the disaster will disappear.
’’Alas, it is not going to disappear, dear Mr President, the hunger issue is still rife. In fact, more people are hungry now than before Lockdown Level 5 - before you told us to stay at home!
’’Community leaders, businesses, non-profit organisations, churches, foreign aid, everyone got involved in the fight against starvation.
’’But you, Mr President... you are shining in your absence to be a leader that can take charge of the biggest humanitarian crisis of modern history. The fact of the matter is that more people will invariably die of hunger than of Covid-19 in South Africa.
’’But, we the people... we won't allow it and that is exactly why we are dragging you to the Constitutional Court where you will answer to us... where you will tell us, your people, why you turned your back on us.“
She urged communities to ’’please hang in there'’ and not resort to violence, saying: ’’Keep believing in us as we work without respite to restore your dignity in our fight against hunger.’’
Fredericks told IOL that the person she is in contact with from the President’s Office ’’just keeps on dangling this meeting without a date in front of me and it’s not bringing us anywhere’’.
“One of the reasons I have decided to go ahead with this Constitutional Court challenge is because there is a commitment. But they keep on saying they can’ get all the role-players together. I get the feeling they are stringing us around so we won’t wait any longer for that date.
’’We are in the process of gathering the top legal minds. I have got a team of advisers supporting me and we are definitely going ahead with the Constitutional Court case against the president.
Commenting on what’s happening on the ground under level 2, she said: “It’s indeed getting worse and worse because people can now move freely and all over the show. ’It means more people from other areas rock up and when they are in the queue, you must feed them because you can't send people away.
’’The reality is that many feeding kitchens have been closed down. I’ve got a lot of people writing to me every day, groups of people saying, ’Joanie, I can't afford to give people food any more can you help me’. So the situation is dire.“
Asked what the worst-case scenario might be, she said: “If we cannot continue feeding the community and the president is not going to fulfil his role, then people will turn to violence and this is the last resort.
“So far community leaders such as myself, we are really the people that have made sure that people haven’t taken this route in terms of breaking into shops and all of that.
’’But if we can't give food any more, I am sure the criminal elements will be leading the way to go to the stores to start breaking in and that worries me because once we reach that point, it's going to be so difficult to pull back from.“