Food Parcel Theft Allegations Ignite Tensions In eThekwini Metro

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Photo: SA CANEGROWERS

SANDILE MOTHA

THE ETHEKWINI metro has again come under scrutiny and criticism in the manner in which it is handling its food relief programme meant for COVID-19 beneficiaries.

The metro, the largest City in KwaZulu Natal and the third largest city South Africa, is facing fresh allegations after residents of municipal Ward 80 in Umlazi Township raised questions over the disappearance of food vouchers and food parcels, allegedly meant to assist the elderly.

Speaking to Inside Metros, Khulekani Cele, community activist and concerned resident, alleged that the ward councillor was only distributing food parcels to his family and friends.

“We started noticing that something was amiss when food was distributed at night from the councillor’s house. I personally asked why was this not done during the day, but was told the food parcels were meant for ward committee members only,” Cele said.

Cele said as result of the mysterious disappearance of the food, elderly people had resorted to queuing at the councillor’s office in the wee hours of the morning hoping that the authorities might sympathise with their plight.

“It’s very painful to just witness the horrifying scene of old women suffering at the hands of the people who should be providing them with hope in these trying times. This goes to show that councillors can never be trusted with public resources,” added Cele.

Another resident, Sithembile Zwane, corroborated Cele’s version, saying the councillor had targeted some community members, claiming they were standing in the way for him to be re-elected.

“He is now using the food parcels to bribe residents and push his campaign to stand as councillor again next year,” said Zwane.

The alleged perpetrator is controversial ANC councillor Mthokozisi Nojiyeza, who was last year accused of masterminding the demise of  his fellow councillor, Sibusiso Maphumulo.

His case was, however, withdrawn on grounds of insufficient evidence following the mysterious disappearance of key witnesses in the murder case.

Asked to provide his version on the allegations, Nojiyeza said this was a smear campaign and a concerted effort by his detractors to tarnish his good name.

“First and foremost, beneficiaries of food parcels and vouchers were identified through a rigorous verification process. Not every community member will be allocated, only deserving and needy people are receiving the food relief. The reports that I’m giving food parcels to my friends and family is fallacy and a campaign to assassinate my character,” said Nojiyeza in his defence.

The widespread of incidents of food parcels theft in the province recently received condemnation from ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli.

Ntuli said they had taken a hard-line stance against those implicated, including instituting criminal charges.

There were also reports of food parcels being sold to ‘spaza’ shops.

The non-profit sector also entered the fray, saying food theft can be averted if it was removed from the hands of politicians and NPOs are entrusted with the responsibility of food distribution.

“Social relief sector is being hijacked by opportunists and political parties as an electioneering tool ahead of the next year’s municipal elections. This space can be safely guarded when NPOs and churches are the only ones given the mandate to supply food to the needy,” said Professor Musa Xulu, founder of the Reconciliation and Peace Institute, non-profit organisation fostering peaceful coexistence between communities.

(Compiled by Inside Metros staff)

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