Food aid, gender violence & SA's future: Bryan Habana speaks
'She was covered in blood and I felt helpless and anger at the same time'
Her face was beaten, filled with cuts and bloodied. She was being carried by two men who were trying to get her to the ambulance that had just arrived.
Rage, sorrow, sadness and helplessness filled him all at the same time. He didn't know what to do. Should he drop the parcel of food he was delivering to a destitute and disabled woman in Hangberg, Hout Bay, to help? Should he try to find out what happened to the woman who had been so badly beaten?
This is one reality that faced former Springbok Bryan Habana as he delivered food to those who have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
He told TimesLIVE it's a scenario that has always been in SA, only now with the lockdown as a result of the spread of the virus, poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and deplorable living conditions have been amplified.
“Physical distancing is not possible in disadvantaged communities or squatter camps. These are people who have been struggling for food and to make any kind of life for so long. The lockdown has made it even tougher. Physical distancing is impossible. In some cases, there are 6/7 people living together in one room. Then the affect of the lockdown on mental health ... it's a brutal situation.”
Established in 2015, the Bryan Habana Foundation typically focuses on youth leadership and empowerment. But with the pandemic, the former athlete turned entrepreneur said he recognised he needed to adjust the focus of his foundation because of the “incredible humanitarian need in SA”.
Partnering with Ozow Pay, an online payment system, Habana says his foundation aims to raise R1m that will go towards non-perishable food parcels that could feed a family for up to three weeks.
Whether he is packing the parcels, helping raise awareness about the effect of the lockdown in rural areas, or distributing the parcels himself, Habana says every person has a part to play.
“This is not about showboating. This is about me having a voice and using my platform to raise funds that can make a tangible difference to someone's life.”
View this post on Instagram
Yesterday shook me to the core. - It was this moment right here, on our way to deliver a food parcel to one of the most fragile and destitute people in Hangberg, Hout Bay, that we walked past a woman who was being carried by two men(who I choose to believe had come to her rescue) to an ambulance. Her faced covered in blood and split open in numerous places. Domestic violence. GENDER BASED VIOLENCE!! - My heart broke while my anger began to rage, my emotions swaying like a pendulum. I stood there helpless not knowing whether to drop what I was doing and try to lend a hand to a situation I had no control over or continue delivering the food parcel which will feed a family for the next 3 weeks. - That image has been replaying itself through my mind for the past 24hrs. - So much need, so much wrong, so much left to do. - And again reminded it me that we as men NEED to be better. That we as men are the problem. That we as men need to do more. That we as men just can’t sit back and accept what is happening. That we as men NEED to be the solution. Each and every one of us!!! - We won’t stop trying to make a difference! - #bryanhabanafoundation #GBV #bebetter #bethedifference
Making a difference
Using his huge and influential social media following to his advantage, Habana remains humble, referring to the donations of other athletes around the globe like tennis players Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, as well as the efforts of SA rugby players Cheslin Kolbe and Siya Kolisi and his wife Rachel Kolisi.
“SA has a vast difference between rich and poor and this is really just an authentic effort to do something that can really help. The work that Siya and Rachel are doing, through the Kolisi Foundation, is incredible. Siya has publicly spoken about sometimes going to school just to get a sandwich with peanut butter and jam. So he knows first-hand the affect on people from impoverished communities.”
Habana says he has donated about R150,000 from his personal funds to contribute towards the food parcel drive and says that with the changing weather, the focus may change later to include blankets and warm clothes.
Men can do more
He says it has been humbling to witness pensioners who have not eaten in a day or two get food parcels. But it was the domestic violence incident that really struck a chord. So, what is he doing to change the narrative against women in his everyday life?
“I'm not perfect, nor do I preach to be. But I strive to be better and change and learn. I am respectful of my wife. I try to show my boys to respect women. Essentially, I try to lead the kind of life that I would want my boys to grow up in.”
He said it's also important not to turn a blind eye or let things slide when things are said in casual situations like on WhatsApp groups.
On catching a piece of the horror that is some people's lives, Habana said there are many challenges facing SA, and on coming out of the pandemic, it's important to be realistic about the damage.
“As South Africans, at our toughest time, a lot of good has come to light. There is a lot of negative and it's important to keep yourself in check and play your part.”