Plan to steal aid from flood victims
The uncovering of a scheme to steal millions of rands worth of humanitarian aid intended for 60000 Mozambique flood survivors has forced South African aid agency Gift of the Givers to withdraw from the country's biggest displaced people's camp.
Hours before nearly R2-million worth of aid was to be distributed yesterday in the camp outside Chokwe - near the centre of the area in which floods 10 days ago killed 80 people and displaced nearly 200000 - the organisation discovered that the camp's administrators had created fake lists of beneficiaries.
The needy victims of the floods, especially the thousands of women and children living in the camp, were the intended recipients of the aid.
The order for the withdrawal of the Gift of the Givers team was given when the charity's founder, Imtiaz Sooliman, discovered that at the top of the list of aid recipients were the camp's administrators and their families.
"Things went wrong because of the Mozambican government officials. I issued instructions for lists containing the names of women and children, and of the elderly and sick, to be given to me today. Instead we discovered these bogus and fictitious lists with the names of people not in need of anything.
"They were taking from the people we were meant to be helping."
Sooliman said Gift of the Givers had immediately withdrawn their aid and set up links with church groups operating in the village of Hokwe.
More than 3500 families - many of them with severely ill infants - who lived in Chokwe fled to Hokwe when the floods struck.
Within moments of the food trucks and ambulances, along with South African soldiers, arriving in Hokwe people ran to the village centre to beg for assistance.
Church elder Domingos Utui said the situation was desperate.
"We have many families camping in empty schools and buildings. They fled here because they had nowhere to go.
"The government has been slow to provide assistance and the people had no choice but to come to us.
"We have nothing to help them with ... our villages have run out of food. Your presence here is an answer to our prayers. Without South Africa's help many would have died," said Utui.
Sooliman said his organisation would stay in Hokwe for as long as needed.
"We are giving food straight to the people ... it is not going to any administrators or government officials. We are distributing special baby food, porridge, beans, rice, maize meal and water, along with clothing and sanitary wear."