Food parcel headaches

Parcels being handed out at Sentinel Primary School.

The nationwide lockdown has caused a strain on many households, with some having to rely on food parcels.

In Hout Bay it is no different but what is causing unhappiness is that some residents feel that there are people purposefully not receiving food parcels and that the distribution process is rigged.

The residents who spoke to the Sentinel News did not want to be named, fearing victimisation.

A Hangberg resident said she had only received one food parcel, containing a pack of rice, teabags, coffee, flour, maize meal, tinned foods and a packet of beans, but she has noticed residents around her receiving assistance on more than one occasion.

“I don’t want to sound like I do not appreciate the help, but we are all in this together and we are all struggling together, but when I hear how friends and neighbours are getting help regularly, while others are not, I ask why,” the unemployed mother of two teenagers said.

“I am being patient. I stand in the line and get to the front of it, nothing is there and I have to wait again. My son had to go out and ask his friends to share their packs with us and give us some things to go on and get through another day,” the frustrated mother said.

Another resident, a single father of three, claims to have seen many food parcels being left behind in the distribution after people were told there is nothing left.

He also alleged to have seen a difference in the content of some of the food parcels.

“The packs left behind, you will maybe see two of everything, where I only have one tin of baked beans for example.”

He said he appreciates what is being done for them, “but why are people trying to walk away with more? That stuff can go towards somebody else who is struggling”.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said it was difficult to put an exact number on it, but the Imizamo Yethu (IY) and Hangberg communities received roughly between 1 000 and 3 000 plated or boxed, as well as packed meals daily, along with a few hundred food parcels.

“There are many organisations working in the Hout Bay area for which Hout Bay is extraordinarily fortunate. As such it is difficult to provide an exact amount of meals being processed daily across both IY and Hangberg,” he said.

He made it clear that the City of Cape Town would take a “zero tolerance stance” if any distributor of the parcels or meals was found to be manipulating the beneficiary lists in any way, allowing for some to benefit more than is fair, and others to be sidelined.

“In my opinion, not only are they committing theft and fraud, but are in fact putting the most vulnerable at risk of hunger and malnutrition and even death,” he said.

He encouraged residents with any evidence of corruption to come forward and report it.

Multiple organisations have been working around the clock with volunteers, donors and other businesses lining up to assist.

These NGOs work with lists in place and there is a fair amount of cooperation which does limit the amount of duplication, or multiple hand-overs to the same beneficiary, he said.

“I’m saying that, there is human error which must be accounted for and it is possible that some persons benefit more than once and others may be overlooked. When I’m made aware of it, I ensure that details are provided to the appropriate NGOs operating in relevant spaces and do my best to ensure that no one is left behind,” Mr Quintas said.

The majority of the NGOs keep records and have spreadsheets, with some even having developed brand-new apps for this purpose.

Alene Edson Smith is a food relief representative for Hangberg working under the Hout Bay Community Action Network (CAN) and said there are 14 local NGOs registered with CAN and explained that the unregistered NGOs are also out in the area, handing out parcels freely without a proper system in place.

“Not all NGOs are working together by choice so those that are not registered with us are getting parcels and sponsorship and they can obviously give to whoever they like and this is where the unfairness creeps in,” Ms Edson said.

Names and information is verified by CAN’s area distributors and these names, as well as the detailed information, gets sent to the CAN admin team, who does verification and checks for duplication.

Ms Edson confirmed that if a name does appear twice, then the second entry is removed from the list, as each name is registered to an NGO.

Serenity is the local NGO run by Ms Edson, which already has 770 names registered. Beneficiaries will only receive from Serenity and if other NGOs give the same name, it will kick out and indicate which NGO has the name entered.

CAN also works on a RAG system, which sees names split into Red, Amber and Green divisions.

Red names are high priority and need immediate food relief attention, Amber is urgent and needs help within the next week and Green are those that will need a food pack in the near future.

“I’m currently dealing with a group of foreigners that are adamant they have not received, yet the system indicates they did. With investigation, we found out that locals were signing on their behalf,” Ms Edson said.

Residents are being urged to register via an NGO which allows for accountability and accuracy.

“If we pick up a discrepancy, it’s the NGO’s responsibility to account for it. So if all NGOs come on board then they deal with the vulnerable in their area, the names get sent to CAN, the admin verifies and within 24 hours the recipient will have a food parcel,” Ms Edson explained.

A Hout Bay local who donates food parcels and meals to the most vulnerable is Nazley Sadan, who does not operate under an NGO, but in her personal capacity. “These are really trying times for everybody across the country and there are families out there who are really struggling and that is why I decided to do this,” she said. “We are out there doing our best”.