Minister Fernandez fears new draft directions could threaten food security of most vulnerable

I have become aware that new draft regulations currently before National Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, propose the banning of cooked food distribution by NGOs, and will require all NGOs to apply for permits if they wish to distribute any form of food aid.

This is deeply concerning. It will make it extremely difficult for private donors, non-governmental organisations and civil society to distribute food relief to people most in need.

It will threaten the food security of the most vulnerable people in our province, and indeed the entire country, and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis brought on by the hard lockdown.

I have therefore urgently written to Minister Zulu and urged her to reject these directions. We have noted the following reasons:

  • Banning cooked food provision by NGOs will shut down neighborhood level feeding schemes which are keeping people from starving at this stage, while the capacity of the state and NGO sector to deliver food parcels door to door is limited and will never be able to reach the numbers of people currently being assisted with cooked food.
  • Many people do not have cooking equipment, electricity and/or fuel, and rely on cooked food as they are unable to cook for themselves.
  • Prohibiting cooked food provision by NGOs would be in direct contrast to the current level 4 provisions for the sale of cooked food by fast food providers. As such, it would unfairly discriminate against the poor.
  • The requirement that provincial departments of Social Development give permits to all NGOs that wish to provide food aid would be impossible to implement, since there are tens of thousands of organisations and private individuals in neighbourhoods in every province of this country, and provincial departments do not have the capacity to issue permits to every one of these organisations and individuals, or to co-ordinate them as contemplated in the draft directives.
  • there is currently no indication that the provision of food aid by the NGO sector is increasing the spread of COVID 19?
  • The South African Police Services (SAPS) does not have capacity to be involved in every food relief operation in the province, no matter how large or small, as required by the draft directions, and their capacity would be massively stretched arresting and shutting down small soup kitchens in every community in the country for providing cooked food to starving people.”

I urge the National Minister to reconsider the draft directions. They simply cannot go ahead. I also request the need for far greater consultation amongst all spheres of government and civil society when making decisions that have such a significant impact on the wellbeing and livelihood of the people we are here to serve. The draft directions will do little to limit COVID transmission and will only negatively impact on the lives of our most vulnerable people.