PRESS RELEASE

18 May 2020

For immediate distribution

FOR SA CALLS UPON GOVERNMENT TO SCRAP COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE DIRECTIVES ON FOOD DISTRIBUTION  

It has come to the attention of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) that the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, intends issuing strict directives on the distribution of food parcels and/or cooked food that will potentially see civil society organisations (CSOs) – including those from the faith community –  obliged to obtain a permit / authorisation letter from the Department of Social Development, with their application to be submitted no less than 48 hours before the distribution date (as is already required in Gauteng). 

FOR SA believes that any such directives would be both counter-productive and unconstitutional.  Tens of thousands of people in South Africa are already on the verge of starvation and the contributions of thousands of faith-based organisations remain critical to meeting this need.  There has also been widespread concern about fraud and corruption regarding the current Government attempts to distribute food to the needy, such as the charging of the needy for food parcels. The result is that food does not always reach those who most desperately need it.

It is important for Government to note that many private individuals who choose to give to feeding programmes do so on the express understanding that their donations will be used to support a specific community, rather than as part of a general effort to feed the hungry.  As such, many CSOs have both a responsibility and a mandate to ensure that the food donations they receive must first and foremost go to those specified and within their communities.  As such, any burdensome and bureaucratic requirements will make it extremely difficult for private donors, NGOs and civil society to distribute food relief to people in their constituencies who are most in need and will potentially exacerbate the humanitarian crisis brought on by the hard lockdown.  

Government, therefore, must not cut across this mandate to make it in any way more problematic for CSOs to distribute their own food to their communities, neither must it compel them to bring food donations to a centralised, government-controlled depot/distribution centre.  Should Government attempt to do so, many such faith-based groups will potentially face the untenable position of having to disobey Government in order to continue to support and care for their own members and community.  FOR SA therefore call upon Government to allow these organisations to be allowed to continue their vital work during this lockdown crisis, and beyond.

ENDS.

For more information, contact:
Michael Swain
Executive Director, FOR SA
Email: michael.swain@forsa.org.za  
Cell: 072 270 1217