President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to deal harshly with people who hoard and sell food parcels meant for the poor.
In his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday, Ramaphosa described this behaviour as “disturbing and disgusting.”
He said, “A number of provinces have received reports that callous individuals, some of them allegedly government officials, are hoarding or selling food parcels earmarked for the needy and destitute, or diverting them to their friends and families.”
‘Poverty tearing our communities apart’
“If there is found to be substance to these allegations, we will deal with the individuals concerned harshly,” the President added.
According to a City Press report on Sunday, the allegations emerged in at least eight provinces across the country and suspects include councillors.
Last week, the African National Congress (ANC) in the North West suspended two councillors who had allegedly asked for food parcel contributions from businesses for personal gain.
Ramaphosa said the food shortages, poverty, inequality and unemployment highlighted by the lockdown are “tearing the fabric of our communities apart.”
He said, “There can be no greater injustice than a society where some live in comfort and plenty, while others struggle at the margins to survive with little or nothing at all.
“Yes, these are the residual effects of a fractured and unequal past. But they are also a symptom of a fundamental failing in our post-apartheid society. The nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus has gravely exacerbated a long-standing problem.”
The President added that the Cabinet will finalise measures to respond to the lockdown’s economic impact on South Africans after engagements with business, labour, religious organisations, civil society and the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.
He said the government will scale up welfare provision during the remaining lockdown period to help households living below the poverty line.
“Food support is a short-term emergency measure. It will need to be matched by sustainable solutions that help our most vulnerable citizens weather the difficult times that are still to come,” Ramaphosa added.
Last week, the government announced that the lockdown will be gradually eased in what it described as a “risk-adjusted approach.” Nevertheless, the President cautioned South Africans against complacency.
“We are at a point in our battle with the pandemic where complacency could prove disastrous. I call on each and every one to remain vigilant, to continue to abide by the regulations, and to keep safe and keep others safe,” he said.