Thousands rush to shops to redeem BCM food parcel vouchers

Crowds of people waited for food parcel vouchers in Duncan Village.
Crowds of people waited for food parcel vouchers in Duncan Village.
Image: Bhongo Jacob

Physical distancing went out of the window as desperate food beneficiaries queued to redeem their food parcel vouchers at selected stores in Buffalo City Metro on Monday.

Hundreds of people in Mdantsane, Duncan Village and King William’s Town were seen waiting for food parcels with no sign of social distancing — placing them at risk of possibly being infected with Covid-19.

The situation was made worse by the large number of month-end shoppers who were added to the throngs of people.

A handful of law enforcement officials were seen on the scene at each of the large gatherings on Monday morning.

In Mdantsane, four traffic official vehicles and three soldiers were seen at the entrance of the Mdantsane City Mall, while in Duncan Village, police and soldiers could only be seen inside the Boxer Superstore premises.

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni had not commented on why the officers watched instead of ensuring there was at least a 1.5m  distance between people in the queues.

Buffalo City metro has made R30m available towards providing food parcels to 40,000 families in each of its 50 wards.

Each ward has to identify 800 people living below the poverty line who will receive the R750 vouchers.

Those meant to benefit from the food vouchers are the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, child-headed homes and hawkers.

The sheer number of people waiting to collect food parcel vouchers along with month-end shoppers made soicial distancing impossible in Buffalo City. Production and editing: Luke Charter

However, on Monday afternoon, BCM changed the number of beneficiaries allowed for shopping to 200 per day, just hours after DispatchLIVE questioned the municipality about the process followed in issuing food parcel vouchers.

Sinazo Dayimani, 26, and her family of seven watched helplessly as residents from Duncan Village pushed trolleys with food items from the Boxer store.

“We have no parents, our family only survives with the R700 we get from renting out our shacks every month.

We are not on the food lists ,yet we see people who are far better off than us receiving food.”

It seems certain individuals have been selected by our councillors. We do not understand how they can only want 800 names in a ward with over 8,000 poor voters.”

The process of choosing destitute families that will benefit from BCMs parcel vouchers has been riddled with allegations of favouritism throughout the metro.

Sandisile Nyathi accused controversial BCM councillor Ntombizodwa Gamnca of “choosing her own people” to receive the vouchers.

“There are [ANC] factions in the ward. We have called BCM and they are not responding. The councillor has only chosen people that she favours.”

Lukhanyo Mafu, another resident in Gamnca’s ward which encompasses NU6 and NU7 in Mdantsane, said: We do not know how these families were chosen in ward 20.

“They have skipped certain families when collecting the names to benefit from these food lists.”

Gamnca could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.

Mncane Futwa, of Esantini township outside Gonubie, echoed the same sentiments of alleged favouritism.

“The food parcels and vouchers were supposed to benefit the needy who are known by the municipality, but municipalities have a tendency of having councillors who have their favourites  benefit from government programmes.

“We do not want to start a protest because we would be breaking the lockdown rules.”

BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said the municipality had reduced the number  of recipients of social relief vouchers to 200  a day and extended the shopping period  to mitigate congestion.

“This means that spread out, shoppers should be able to be assisted within four days and, as such, the municipality is making a call to residents not to panic and flock to supermarkets as they will all be eventually assisted.

“The municipality’s security cluster is attending to these reports [of no physical distancing] and has made a call to businesses to adhere to the strict social distancing regulations,” Ngwenya said.

He said BCM had to close down the Mdantsane City Mall on Friday following non-adherence to social distancing and hygiene practices.

Ngwenya said BCM was meeting with the affected councillors to resolve some of the issues.

He urged residents to report corrupt councillors on BCM’s fraud hotline at 080-066-8413.

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