Covid-19: Hunger

Olievenhoutbosch's most vulnerable hit hard by Covid-19 lockdown

10 May 2020 - 00:00
By Belinda Pheto
People in Olievenhoutbosch, near Centurion, Gauteng, wait in line for food parcels.
Image: Gallo Images/ER Lombard People in Olievenhoutbosch, near Centurion, Gauteng, wait in line for food parcels.

For the estimated 70,000 people who call Olievenhoutbosch home, the Covid-19 pandemic brought a swift and painful chop to already stretched resources.

As the effects of the lockdown were felt, food parcel queues several kilometres long formed in the 11kmĀ² township, about 10km from the centre of Centurion in Gauteng.

Olievenhoutbosch is one of the areas in Tshwane that will be most adversely affected by Covid-19, according to the latest survey by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory on behalf of the provincial government.

It is home to many social grant recipients and casual workers, and almost 65% of income in the area is from what are deemed "vulnerable sources" - piece work as gardeners, waitresses, hair salon workers and waste-pickers, for example, all of whom are prohibited from plying their trades under lockdown Level 4 regulations.

A lot of income is also derived from renting out rooms in the back yards of homes, which has also dried up as people are unable to pay.

Recently, efforts to distribute food parcels erupted in chaos when more than 20,000 people at a time gathered, prompting what some described as a stampede.

Marriam Mokoena, 34, receives a R445 child support grant for her 11-year-old son. She is unable to work as a hairdresser at a salon in the Centurion CBD for now, and the loss of that income has put her family in a precarious position.

Mokoena rents a back room in the yard of Simon Diphoko, 53, who has nine other tenants.

Diphoko told the Sunday Times this week that since the lockdown began he has been unable to collect rent from his tenants. "They all do odd jobs and most of them have been home since the lockdown, meaning no income for them," he said.

Diphoko, Mokoena and other tenants in the yard received food parcels from the Mahlasedi Foundation and 3C Church this week.

The cost of feeding a family a basic nutritious diet per month
Image: Nolo Moima The cost of feeding a family a basic nutritious diet per month

According to the head of the foundation, Pastor Bert Pretorius, the food parcels are enough to provide two meals a day for a family of four for a month.

They have changed from a collection system to a delivery system to avoid the need for queues, but it slows down the process.

"Right now there is a little bit of dignity for the recipients because they don't have to queue the whole day. Some people were starting to queue as early as 1am," said Pretorius.

The foundation has issued identified households with QR barcode tags connected to their ID documents to help track fair distribution.

With the new distribution method, Pretorius said, they manage to get to about 1,400 families a day, compared to the between 3,500 and 4,500 families they used to help each day.

The Tshwane metro police and local councillors are now offering assistance, escorting delivery trucks. Councillors point out homes where deliveries (by trolley entrepreneurs) need to be made.

Covid-19 cases in SA
Image: Nolo Moima Covid-19 cases in SA

For Given Leboho, 28, who has to wait to return to his job on a construction site, the food parcel distribution brought an unexpected source of income. "I live next to the school where the food was being distributed and saw how people were struggling to carry the food parcels," he told the Sunday Times.

He started carting parcels in his wheelbarrow to the nearby taxi rank, and at times to people's homes. For a delivery to the taxi rank, he charges R10.

The church has now set up a distribution point close to homes, roping in people like Leboho for the deliveries.

Gauteng social development spokesperson Thabiso Hlongwane said the department has deployed officials in Olievenhoutbosch who will monitor the distribution of food, and see that lockdown regulations are adhered to.

Hlongwane said the department has also contributed food parcels to needy families in the area and to a total of 45,000 families in Gauteng.