Residents of a Booysens informal settlement who survive on scavenging and recycling were up in arms complaining that they had not received any food parcels since the lockdown.  Picture:  Simphiwe Mbokazi/ African News Agency (ANA)
Residents of a Booysens informal settlement who survive on scavenging and recycling were up in arms complaining that they had not received any food parcels since the lockdown. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/ African News Agency (ANA)

Food parcel protest turns ugly as cops fire rubber bullets at hungry residents

By Boitumelo Metsing Time of article published Apr 29, 2020

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Food parcel protests turned ugly when police were forced to fire rubber bullets at desperate Booysens informal settlement residents.

This was after the residents took to the streets on Tuesday in an an attempt to force the government to heed their request for food parcels.

They blocked a section of Eloff Street between Selby in the Joburg city centre and parts of Rosettenville.

Lawrence Matlaba, 52, was one of the residents injured during demonstrations when he was shot in his right foot. He claimed to have been shot while he was sleeping in his home after police followed the protesters into their shacks.

“They were going into houses, instructing people to sleep, but when they got to me they shot me,” he said.

Residents said they opted to protest because they had not received food parcels since the lockdown commenced.

One resident said: “We blame the councillor. We leave the safety of our homes to get corona on that dumping site, where we find food underneath kids’ dirty nappies.”

Department of Social Development spokesperson Thabiso Hlongwane urged residents to be patient as food could not be delivered to everyone at the same time.

“We understand and are fully aware of their frustrations. However, they must not break the lockdown regulations. A number of people that have applied have received the parcels.

“To those that have not yet received, we are calling for calm as a department,” said Hlongwane

He said 190 000 people had received food parcels across the province since the start of the lockdown.

“People of Booysens are being attended to through our tamper-proof system. We are serving the whole of Gauteng. Food will come to them; everyone that applied will receive food according to how and when they applied,” said Hlongwane.

Councillor Mngameli Mnyameni dismissed allegations he didn’t want to assist the informal settlement residents.

“I had tasked people to get a list of people to be forwarded to the department for them to receive food parcels.

“However, in a meeting with the acting MEC of Social Development, Panyaza Lesufi, we were instructed that councillors should distance themselves from food parcels, and I complied,” he said.

Mnyameni said on the instruction of the MEC, he had sent out information that people should apply for food parcels via the Department of Social Development’s various platforms.

“I have done all that I can to assist. Even in the beginning, they said they had no knowledge of Covid-19 and I went to educate them with the little knowledge that I have, together with Johannesburg Water.

“A water tank was also provided for refill so that they could observe hygiene during this pandemic, but that tank was stolen,” he said.

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