South Africa: COVID-19 - 'One Day I Will Get My Own Food Parcel'

Hungry KwaNobuhle residents wait all night for food

For the past three weeks, dozens of residents of KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, have been sleeping next to Solomon Mahlangu High School, hoping to be the first people in the queue for food parcels the next day.

The residents, from wards 42 to 47, are waiting for food parcels from Vukuzakhe Project, a non-profit organisation from the township. As part of Covid-19 relief, Vukuzakhe is distributing 1,118 food parcels supplied by Food Forward, an organisation which collects surplus food from the consumer goods supply chain and distributes it to community organisations that serve the poor.

Vukuzakhe member Nonkosinathi Buzani told GroundUp: "People keep sleeping next to the school and make fires, sit on chairs and talk the whole night, so that they get the free food the next day."

"But our neighbours are complaining. We tell these people to go... but they don't want to sleep at home, " she said.

Her organisation of nine people used to keep the fresh food on the school premises, and hand it out to people in queues. But when large numbers of people started coming and social distancing rules were difficult to apply, Vukuzakhe decided to distribute the food parcels door-to-door.

"But people kept sleeping next to the fence of Solomon Mahlangu High," said Buzani.

"When we address them, telling them that we no longer distribute food, people won't listen. They hurl insults at us, saying we want to eat all the food parcels by ourselves."

"They also say we should not worry about them sleeping in the cold and that our job is to give them food, for free, and we should mind our own business."

KwaNobuhle resident Mbuzeli Bam, 29, said: "I am unemployed and I will keep sleeping next to the school because I did not get a food parcel yet. People wake up and queue before I do... and I see some getting food every day."

"One day I will get my own food parcel," he said.

Another resident, Simphiwe Dondashe, said: "Food is what we all need and we can't help but to be near where it is ... at the school. We see it and we want it, and we will get it."

Buzani appealed to residents to adhere to lockdown regulations by staying at home.

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