Maverick Citizen


‘I have never seen gratitude like this’ — readers’ donations bring cheer to Eastern Cape families

‘I have never seen gratitude like this’ — readers’ donations bring cheer to Eastern Cape families
The SA Harvest team prepares to distribute much-needed food parcels to households in Mbizana, Eastern Cape. (Photo: SA Harvest)

Since 20 December 2023, the SA Harvest team has been hard at work distributing food parcels in the Eastern Cape sponsored by R2.1-million in donations from Daily Maverick readers.

And wherever the members have arrived people have been singing and dancing.

“I have never experienced anything like this,” said SA Harvest chief operating officer Ozzy Nel. “Everywhere we arrived it was like walking into a party.

“There was a great celebration.”

The money donated by Daily Maverick readers sponsored 2,000 food parcels, each of which will last a family for six weeks.

The timing of the distribution was vital since school nutrition schemes had been closed for the holidays, leaving many children without their daily breakfast and lunch.

Eastern Cape hunger

Food is delivered to Qebedu, Lusikisiki, where the SA Harvest team brought welcome relief to a grandmother looking after her grandchildren. (Photo: SA Harvest)

Nel said the team had already delivered 1,700 food parcels in some of the Eastern Cape’s poorest areas – Lusikisiki, Mbi­­­zana, Flagstaff and Mthatha.

“In Flagstaff, we were working with the schools where parents manage soup kitchens. In Mthatha we reached out to the waste-picker families, where we reached 200 families,” he said.

The team was distributing food parcels to 200 families in Port St Johns when extreme taxi violence rocked the district. The coastal town shut down on 16 and 17 January when warring taxi associations started a gunfight with automatic firearms.

The SA Harvest team had to spend the night at an Airbnb in the area and was escorted to Mthatha by the police.

“I think another reason this outreach is making me so proud is that our Lusikisiki team consists of nine graduates who could not get jobs,” said Nel.

“We taught them to manage the warehouse and now we are teaching them the basics of plant production to start community gardens.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Generous Daily Maverick readers donate over R2m to bring relief to vulnerable families

He said the last 300 food parcels would be distributed as soon as possible.

“This has been an incredible experience for me. I have never seen gratitude like this anywhere. Never. This is our youngest team and I am immensely proud of how they worked with every person they encountered. Some days they had to get up at 5am and were still working at 10pm,” Nel added.

SA Harvest team members help recipients of the parcels at a second drop-off of food at Redoubt in Mbizana. (Photo: SA Harvest)

Eastern Cape hunger

SA Harvest team members help food parcel recipients at Redoubt in Mbizana. (Photo: SA Harvest)

In a report in October, the South African Human Rights Commission said the hunger crisis should be declared an emergency under disaster management legislation.

About the province, it said: “The Eastern Cape, with its unique blend of cultures and landscapes, is facing a crisis that threatens the health and future of its children. Child malnutrition is not just a health concern; it is a fundamental violation of the rights and well-being of the most vulnerable members of our society.

“The Eastern Cape’s children are its future, and their health and nutrition are inextricably linked to the province’s development and progress.

“Ensuring their well-being is both a constitutional and moral imperative and a crucial step towards building a more equitable and prosperous Eastern Cape.”

Provincial statistics are devastating.

An SA Harvest team member gives a food parcel to a recipient and her children in Redoubt, Mbizana. (Photo: SA Harvest)

An SA Harvest team member gives a food parcel to a recipient and her children in Redoubt, Mbizana. (Photo: SA Harvest)

An SA Harvest team member with a food parcel recipient in Redoubt, Mbizana. (Photo: SA Harvest)

One in five South African households is food insecure, meaning that it does not know where the next meal will come from or when. But in the Eastern Cape this applies to one in every three households. It is the country’s worst-affected province.

One in four children in the province is stunted by malnutrition.

Between 2021 and 2022, at least 1,000 children in the province were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, which led to the deaths of 120 children.

The Eastern Cape Health Department said that between September 2022 and August 2023 there were 456 new cases of severe acute malnutrition in children under five. Ninety-one deaths were recorded in the OR Tambo District Municipality alone.

This is where the SA Harvest team was working. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

DM168 front page


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Great work by the SA Harvest team! A complete embarrassment for the Eastern Cape government and their evil corruption.

  • Just Me says:

    Good stuff. God bless.

  • Beverley Cowper says:

    I am requesting the DM to please take up the Human Rights case on Food Insecurity in South Africa. As your report states, which we read in October, ‘Child malnutrition is not just a health concern; it is a fundamental violation of the rights and well-being of the most vulnerable members of our society’. This is a duty of government again, not being done!!!!!!!

  • Allan Taylor says:

    I like supporting causes such as this, however, I did not contribute to this appeal.

    Lusikisiki falls in the Ingquza Hill Local Municipality. In the 2001 local elections this ward returned 25 ANC seats out of a total of 25. In 2006, 27 out of 27. 2011, 31 of 31. 2016, 31 of 32. in 2021, 28 out of 32.

    If the voters return the ANC time and again they must shoulder the blame for their poverty and hunger.

    • Colin K says:

      It’s mostly true that in democracies you get the government you deserve by voting for them, BUT, children cannot vote, they didn’t ask to be born and they can’t be morally held responsible for the situation of their birth, their parents or the government under which they live.

      Should they starve because of their parents’ voting or non-voting decisions. Maybe you can look at a starving adult and feel nothing but if you can do the same with a starving child you should question your humanity.

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