NGO slams social development dept’s ‘aloofness’ to hunger crisis

Picture for illustration. Some of the homeless people being housed at the Lyttleton Sports Grounds can be seen fighting over sandwiches being handed out, 13 April 2020, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

In papers filed in the High Court in Pretoria, Cradle of Hope’s Melodie van Brakel tore into the department for barring the NGO’s team from handing out sandwiches.

The chief executive of a Krugersdorp nongovernmental organisation (NGO) has accused the department of social development of having “no concept of the mammoth crisis at hand” or being “simply indifferent to it”.

In papers filed in the High Court in Pretoria, Cradle of Hope’s Melodie van Brakel tore into the department for barring the NGO’s team from handing out sandwiches to those in need during the Covid-19 state of disaster.

“I am not willing to sit by idly while people are starving in circumstances where the [department] clearly has no concept of the mammoth crisis at hand or is simply indifferent to it,” she said. “Vulnerable people are in dire need of assistance and food in the current state of disaster. Rapid assistance by the community has become an utter necessity.”

This was part of an urgent application asking the court to lift the bar and allow the NGO to continue its work over this period.

In the application, the organisation pointed to “certain measures and guidelines” issued by the provincial department late last month.

It charged these measures and guidelines fell outside of the scope of the Level 4 lockdown regulations “and directly defeat certain objects of the [Disaster Management] Act aimed at providing rapid and effective relief to people to mitigate the severity of the disaster”.

“The need among the poor has grown exponentially since the lockdown and continues to increase on a daily basis,” Van Brakel said in the papers.

“The measures and guidelines ostensibly issued to control the distribution of food are not only hampering the provision of rapid and effective relief, but … resulted in the prohibition of the distribution of certain foodstuff to hungry people. These additional measures and guidelines are likely to result in rampant famine.”

She said when the lockdown was announced, Cradle of Hope implemented the health measures as outlined in the regulations.

But this month, Van Brakel contacted the department for help securing the police’s assistance with crowd control and was “rudely informed that the distribution of sandwiches is not allowed”.

“This left me utterly distraught … amid the greatest food crisis the Krugersdorp West area had faced in years, [Cradle of Hope] would not be able to provide people who had become dependent on the organisation for food, with their daily sandwiches,” she said.

The case is expected to come before the court next week.

news@citizen.co.za

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.



today in print