Maverick Citizen

Food Justice


Gift of the Givers starts food programme in Butterworth village where desperate mom killed herself and her children

Gift of the Givers starts food programme in Butterworth village where desperate mom killed herself and her children
Gift of the Givers project manager Corene Conradie with community members in the village to discuss the food crisis. (Photo: Supplied)

A week after Butterworth mom Bongeka Buso killed her three children and then hanged herself as the family had no more money for food, humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers has kicked off a food relief programme in Tholeni Village where the family lived.

“While Gift of the Givers was reminiscing on 31 years of service on 6 August with delivery to millions of people in 45 countries, the tragic news came of a gruesome find in Tholeni village, Butterworth, on that very anniversary,” the organisation’s Ali Sablay said after a visit to Tholeni on Monday.

“What degree of desperation drives a mother with natural instincts of nurturing, survival, compassion and love to take the lives of something so precious, so divine, her own flesh and blood, born from her very being? By all accounts the feedback from those in the know in the SAPS, Department of Social Development, community leaders and communities, the causative factor is hunger, and tragically, they say, this is not an isolated incident,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Butterworth mom desperately cried for help before family murders, suicide – Social Development MEC

Shortly after the bodies were discovered on Sunday, 6 August, Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman wrote that while corporate SA has been generous, a larger percentage of the corporate social investment budget must be dedicated to hunger alleviation. 

“Feeding another child or adult is a test of our humanity. This is not a government, corporate or high-earner responsibility, but a collective responsibility of all South Africans with whatever excess we have to share. Creating apprenticeships and employment for youth, offering them a decent stipend, would significantly contribute to reducing hunger in each household by a number of seven,” he wrote. 

Sablay said that during the organisation’s visit to the area on Monday, the team found child-headed households who had had no food for the past two days and an old lady cooking her last grain of food. Hunger, desperation, despair and unemployment were rife, and there was a lack of opportunities. The team also found many undocumented children.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Seven children starve to death, others fight for their lives while malnutrition ravages Eastern Cape

Sablay added that Gift of the Givers teams brought abundant supplies of food to initiate soup kitchens for instant satiety of desperately hungry men, women and children. 

He said they would continue their work on Tuesday with the Department of Health and Social Development and had alerted Home Affairs to register the children so they can receive some form of social support. 

“Community food gardens would provide sustainability, but a lack of water is the limiting factor. Gift of the Givers will support the various villages as best we can. Another self-inflicted death through hunger is an indictment on our nation as a whole,” he said.

“This intervention reminds us of our intervention several years ago in the villages surrounding Verdwaal in the North West where children died from starvation directly. Gift of the Givers teams entered the villages and found horrific levels of hunger,” Sablay said.

Corene Conradie, also from Gift of the Givers, said a local herdsman pointed them to a village where a family was living in dire circumstances. 

“Our teams entered the mud home where we found a gogo on the floor. She was cutting cabbage for her and her four grandchildren. It was the last food in the house. She told us that she will go beg for food again today (Tuesday),” Conradie said.

She said the grandmother receives a social grant, but because of high food prices, it does not last until the next payment date. 

“When we stocked her house with food she was in shock,” Conradie said.

“‘God bless you,’ she cried.”

SRD grant must reach those in need

In a joint statement in July, the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), #PayTheGrants (#PTG) and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) announced they filed court papers challenging regulations that exclude people from receiving the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.

In that statement, the organisations emphasised that government estimates suggest that 18.3 million people between the ages of 18 and 59 live below the food poverty line, without access to adequate nutrition. Additionally, 20.4% of South African households experience food insecurity, with 20.9% sending a member to beg for food.

The organisations said that in May 2023, 14.4 million people applied for the SRD grant, but only 8.4 million were approved and only 7.1 million were actually paid.

Apart from the SRD grant, there is no permanent social assistance available to able-bodied individuals aged 18 to 59 without income, the statement added.

“This marked difference between those in need and the number of beneficiaries paid, in the context of worsening poverty and hunger, is a direct consequence of deliberate actions taken by the government to make it as difficult as possible to access the SRD grant,” the statement continued.

In a separate statement, Black Sash signalled its support for the court challenge.

“The SRD grant is not a handout or a burden, but a constitutional imperative which aids economic growth and is an investment in our collective future given its proven positive benefits. Research shows that income support leads to better nutritional and educational outcomes, social cohesion, and job-seeking behaviour and stimulates local economies.

“It encourages economic activity and helps to empower women who bear the burden of unpaid caregiving work and gender-based violence,” said Rachel Bukasa, director of Black Sash. DM

If you want to help with hunger alleviation in South Africa, you can support Gift of the Givers by making a deposit to: Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account number 052137228, Branch Code 057525, ref Hunger. Please send a deposit slip to [email protected] to receive a Section 18A tax deductible certificate. For details on the Tholeni Village intervention, phone Corene Conradie on 066 281 6401.


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