‘We follow the rules’

2020-04-23 14:00
Some of the recipients of the Hunger Busters feeding scheme, which aims to help the homeless and jobless poor in the CBD.PHOTO: estelle sinkins

Some of the recipients of the Hunger Busters feeding scheme, which aims to help the homeless and jobless poor in the CBD.PHOTO: estelle sinkins

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A feeding scheme that aims to provide meals to the homeless and the jobless poor in the central business district in Howick could be shut down.

The Hunger Busters team, from Love Howick, were handing out parcels containing frozen soup, potatoes, bread, longlife milk and apples yesterday when the deputy mayor of uMngeni Muncipality, Nompumelelo Buthelezi, showed up. A short time later three officers from Howick SAPS joined her at St Luke’s Church, in Harvard Street, to speak to organiser Rob Askew.

Despite having the necessary permits in place to feed people in the CBD, Askew was accused of encouraging people to congregate in large numbers in contravention of the lockdown regulations.

Askew denies this, telling Buthelezi and the SAPS that he has been keeping a strict file of every person the scheme supports. He takes their names, ID numbers, areas they live in and other details; and only those who fall within the area of his permit are allowed to receive food.

Others are sent away with an apology and told to seek help in the areas where they live.

According to Askew, most of those receiving help are single adults who sleep rough at various locations around the CBD, including the new taxi rank. Others pay between R50 and R200 for a room in the nearby informal settlement.

During the day they work as car guards, car washers, recyclers or sell avocados and brooms. Some, mainly women, are involved in prostitution. There are also beggars and whoonga addicts.

A representative from Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) was with the team yesterday to ensure that social distancing and hygiene rules, including the use of hand sanitiser, were being observed.

A complaint about Hunger Busters has now reportedly been made to Cogta’s national office, and the official was ordered to write a report about the scheme. Roughly 10 minutes after Buthelezi and the police left, a minibus carrying uMngeni traffic officers arrived. Two officers questioned Askew again.

It is not the first time that Hunger Busters has had to justify the feeding scheme to the authorities, but Askew is concerned that after yesterday’s visits he may be forced to stop helping people on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Thando Mgaga, spokesperson for uMngeni Municipality, confirmed the deputy mayor had gone to investigate what was happening at the feeding scheme as several concerns had been raised about it. He said a full statement on the issue would be released today.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  feeding scheme
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