Picture: ALON SKUY
Picture: ALON SKUY

A Gauteng-based nonprofit wants the high court to urgently clarify what disaster and relief packages can be distributed to SA’s needy during the lockdown, after it was stopped from performing its daily feeding scheme.  

SA has been under lockdown for two months in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has in turn resulted in the economy being brought to a halt. This has also resulted in increased demands for food for poor households, and looming prospects of mass job losses.  

The Krugersdorp-based Cradle of Hope nonprofit organisation has asked the high court to declare provincial guidelines issued to regulate the distribution of aid unconstitutional and unlawful, after they were stopped from giving poor people in Krugersdorp West food, as they have been doing almost daily for the past three years.

The experiences detailed in their application to the court underscores the confusion experienced by those who want to help the most needy in communities hard hit by the lockdown.

The Cradle of Hope nonprofit organisation is receiving legal aid from Solidarity's Helpende Hand movement.

The court application, which the organisation has asked to be heard on an urgent basis on Tuesday next week, details how the demand for food and help had increased since the start of the lockdown.

There was an “exponential increase” in the demand for food since then, CEO Melodie Marlene van Brakel said in the founding affidavit.

As the situation escalated, Cradle of Hope broadened the help it gave to the community to include food packages as well as hot meals. As the regulations and guidelines started rolling in, they adapted and applied for permits to be able to supply food packages. They stopped cooking hot meals, as it was not allowed, but continued distributing sandwiches.

“As the lockdown ensued, the need in the community escalated profoundly, resulting in more and more people lining up to receive sandwiches daily,” Van Brakel said.

On May 11, the organisation partly barricaded the street to ensure that people queuing for the sandwiches were not hit by cars. It was on that day that a metro police officer reprimanded Van Brakel for using cones to barricade the road, she said.

Van Brakel said she phoned a regional director of the department of social development, who informed her that the distribution of sandwiches was not allowed and that she had to obey the regulations.

“I suddenly found myself in a position where, for the first time in more than three years, and amid the greatest food crisis the Krugersdorp West area had faced in years, the applicant would not be able to provide people who had become dependent on the COH (Cradle of Hope) for food, their daily sandwiches.” 

Van Brakel said the case was not only about Cradle of Hope. A number of nonprofit and welfare organisations involved with the distribution of food during the state of disaster were similarly affected.

She said as the need increased for help, the government should be working closely with civil society and non-governmental organisations to provide rapid relief.

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