Scores of Mamelodi West residents who packed the Mamelodi Baptist Church in Pretoria on Tuesday hoping to get a food parcel, had to be asked to leave after the parcels ran out.
The Collen Mashawana Foundation was in the area to distribute food parcels, masks and clothes to residents and those housed at the church.
More than 50 people who were left displaced after floods destroyed their homes in the area last year are housed on the church’s premises.
The foundation previously donated blankets and mattresses to the flood victims and returned again to offer social relief during the lockdown as the country fights Covid-19.
Long queues snaked outside the church on Tuesday, and scores did not have vouchers to collect parcels.
Senior pastor at the church Thembelani Jentile said when the lockdown started last month, the church realised there were many needy residents and decided to offer meals.
He said when they saw the queues were getting longer during the breakfast and lunch servings, they sought assistance from organisations to offer food parcels to them.
The pastor added that people submitted their names. He said the church had assessed who in the community should get parcels and targeted the most vulnerable.
“People are hungry. You can imagine that when they see something, they are worried that they will be left out,” he said.
“We keep calming them and making them aware that almost everyone will get but not everyone. We don’t have that capacity. We are working with the voucher system and it helps us a bit, otherwise we would have a stampede.”
He added that while the social development department had promised food to the people, it had not yet arrived and had made residents anxious.
Resident Jack Simelane, however, said he was concerned about what criteria were being used to register and distribute the vouchers.
Simelane said it seemed that those who were well connected managed to access vouchers.
He said when they arrived at the church they were told that people had previously registered. He said they were not aware that someone was going around registering people.
“What criteria was really used? If you can see for yourself here, some people, if you can go to their homes, they have workers, police and nurses but others don’t,” Simelane said.
“There is a 93-year-old woman who doesn’t have anyone to support her, what about her? She cannot walk and come to this church.”
He said it would have been better if the church went door to door to register people for food parcels, especially vulnerable homes.
Simelane said residents were also willing to assist in identifying who were most needy.
Collen Mashawana, chairperson and founder of the Mashawana Foundation, said while they would like to assist everyone in the area, they could not. He said they were, however, working with government to meet the needs of everyone.
“We are also encouraging other citizens and other community members to assist one another. As the Collen Mashawana Foundation, we will do this much,” he said.