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Herman Mashaba says humanitarian crisis is looming - and SA is not prepared

20 April 2020 - 12:15 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Herman Mashaba has warned of a humanitarian crisis, as many families face starvation during the lockdown.
Herman Mashaba has warned of a humanitarian crisis, as many families face starvation during the lockdown.
Image: Supplied

Former Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba has expressed concern about the looting of grocery stores amid the lockdown, saying a humanitarian crisis is looming and SA is not prepared.

Last week, food shops were looted in suburbs including Manenberg and Mitchells Plain, Cape Town.

One viral video showed people running towards the tills, looking for cash, while others grab eggs.

Two suspects, aged 29 and 33, were tracked down, arrested and charged with business robbery on Thursday, TimesLIVE reported.

According to Mashaba, the People's Dialogue leader, the looting of stores could get worse, as many households are facing starvation.

“In an effort to prevent deaths related to Covid-19, we have placed vulnerable households at risk of starvation and malnutrition,” said Mashaba.

“It should be clearly understood that people suffering from malnutrition and starvation will be more vulnerable to Covid-19.”

He said the looting was driven by the desperation of those facing starvation because they are not able to earn an income during lockdown.

“Many households depend on income from informal work, and this work has ceased under the lockdown. Without this income, many are facing the stark reality of starvation in the confines of their homes or shacks.

“In recent days we have seen a rise in reports of arrests for non-compliance with the lockdown regulations and looting of stores, driven by the desperation of those facing starvation,” said Mashaba.

Mashaba said the regulations were forcing many South Africans to choose between starvation and breaking the law.

He warned of the possibility of widespread breaches of the regulations, where the vulnerable in society would “face the brutality” of law enforcement and the defence force (SANDF).

“Anyone under these circumstances would do what is necessary to feed their family,” he said.

Mashaba said he would write to President Cyril Ramaphosa and make certain proposals, including:

  • The reconsideration of regulations that continue to safeguard both the health of citizens, and their ability to earn a basic household income.
  • An expansive rollout of a food security programme that would ensure that those unable to earn a basic living did not starve.
  • Directives to law enforcement agencies and the SANDF to exercise restraint in enforcement of the lockdown regulations.

“Without these steps being taken with urgency, SA is likely to see a combination of lockdown breaches, starvation, and brutality meted out to the most vulnerable in our society. This is a humanitarian crisis we cannot afford,” Mashaba said