The Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) is leading from the front in its efforts to assist the poor and vulnerable during the Covid19 pandemic, with plans to establish a food bank, and now councillors digging into their pockets to lend a helping hand.
The CHDM councillors accepted the South African Local Government Association’s (Salga) proposal to establish a district Solidarity Fund, and the deduction of 4% from their salaries to contribute to it for three months.
CHDM council speaker Mxolisi Koyo, who spoke to the media on Monday, indicated the proposal by Salga which was communicated to the local government sphere, was to assist residents in the areas in which they were established.
“This decision followed the call by the president for public representatives to show empathy and support, by contributing a portion of their salaries towards helping the less fortunate people in society while we are in the Covid-19 quagmire.
“The funds will benefit underprivileged people in the Chris Hani area. A committee that will handle matters related to the funds was established, with members from various categories of society still to be included. This is so that ordinary residents who can afford to contribute, may do so as well. We copied this from the president’s Solidarity Fund whose structure includes government and civil society.”
Koyo said discussions in relation to staff and management also contributing to the fund were underway, but that, for now, the decision was only made for councillors.
“Council approved the decision. What is left is for us to disseminate the information to communities because we anticipate that churches, non-profit organisations (NPOs), traditional leaders, businesses and other organisations will have an interest, which is why we want the committee to be made up of a variety of people from all spheres of society.”
And businesses operating in the district area have already heeded the call and pledged support to the institution’s joint operations committee’s (Joc) initiative to establish a food bank to assist poor people affected by the effects of Covid-19.
The news was warmly received by the rest of the business fraternity who were recently informed about the intention to establish a food bank via a virtual meeting, with some making pledges on the spot.
CHDM mayor Wongama Gela said a number of businesspeople made donation commitments, some of which had been received prior to the meeting.
“In implementing the Joc decision we arranged to meet with businesspeople operating in our area, including representatives from business forums to speak about the co-ordination of donations. However, we mainly wanted to lobby them to make pledges on how they could assist during this difficult time.”
Gela indicated the municipality’s focus in establishing the food bank was to ensure they received food parcels instead of cash donations.
“We unfortunately will not be accepting money. We encourage donors to purchase a standardised set of food parcels in line with guidelines provided by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa). We want everyone to receive the same items. We will facilitate the distribution using Sassa’s beneficiary lists to avoid duplications.”
The mayor said a food bank operations committee would be established and would report to the Joc social cluster sub-committee.
The committee will consist of the municipal manager, a senior manager responsible for municipal support, two people from the business sector, representatives from Sassa and the social development department.
Since this is an initiative of the district municipality, Gela said the institution made the first commitment to provide 600 food parcels with the intention to ensure each of the six local municipalities received 100 parcels.
“We are thankful and encourage everyone who can make a donation to get in touch with the municipality to ensure the centralisation of the food parcels. We are not doing this just for the lockdown period, we want to keep the food bank running even beyond it.”
A number of civic organisations, businesspeople as well as ordinary residents have also made food donations to help support the poor.
The Queenstown Bangladesh Community donated food parcels to residents in several areas of Mlungisi township to the tune of R100 000, to give back to their customers in their time of need.
The Bangladeshis provided about 600 food parcels that were distributed to people in Rhawutini informal settlement, Nomzamo, Khayelitsha, New Rest, New Vale and Aloe Vale.
Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) mayor Luleka Gubhula who worked with the Bangladeshis to facilitate the food distribution said the municipality was thankful for this act of kindness. “What I liked mostly about this initiative is that the donors had their own list of who they wanted to give the food to. They did their own work of identifying poor people in the areas from which they operate. They provided 200 parcels for councillors to distribute in other areas where there is a need. We worked well together throughout the process. “
Gubhula reiterated the importance of registering all donations with her office, indicating donors were required to do so, so they may be recorded on the donors’ registration list and be advised which areas still needed support to avoid distributing to the same people.
“When we talk about the centralisation of donations, we are not calling for people to give the donations to us, we simply want to record it and advise you, based on the information we have, because we work with councillors who know the poorest of the poor in their wards.”
Queenstown Bangladesh Community leader and owner of Helal Cash and Carry, Helal Shahidulhaque said he learned from one of his workers about how bad the situation was for poor people in the township.