KZN residents go hungry as ANC and IFP squabble over food parcels

There have been allegations of improper food distribution by community leaders across the country.
There have been allegations of improper food distribution by community leaders across the country.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Residents of Gcilima, a semi-rural area on KwaZulu-Natal's south coast, are caught in a political food fight after a member of the IFP was allegedly stopped from delivering food to the area. 

IFP MP and national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa has claimed he was stopped by an ANC ward councillor, Richard Nyembezi, from delivering food parcels to 50 needy families in the area on Sunday.

"He had no business with the food, as the people we were giving food to were the ones he had overlooked. There was no way I was going to interact with the very culprit who was at the heart of us going to deliver food there in the first place," said Hlengwa. 

Nyembezi denied the allegations, saying he welcomed the delivery but had asked that the food parcels not be delivered by IFP-branded vehicles as this could incite violence in the area, which is an ANC stronghold.

"I got a call from members of the ANC to say someone was bringing members of the IFP to canvass with branded vehicles and they cannot allow food parcels to be used in a campaign," said Nyembezi. "If they were bringing food parcels without branded vehicles, there wouldn't be a problem. I had to stop people who were threatening violence if the IFP came."

Hlengwa said he was not comfortable to hand over the parcels to Nyembezi to distribute, as he claims the councillor has been accused of mismanaging parcel deliveries in the area. Nyembezi denied this allegation, saying they had not received any food parcels from the government to distribute.

A resident of the area, who had facilitated the security of the food parcels and did not want to be named, said: "This thing has nothing to do with politics. I approached a number of people and Mkhuleko was one of the first to respond.

"People in this area are starving and many have not gotten food parcels. People waiting in the hall said that they didn't care where the food was coming from or from which party."

With neither party willing to back down, an impasse was reached - forcing Hlengwa to go back with the parcels and not deliver them to the residents who were waiting at the local hall. 

Hlengwa said he has since raised the issue with the ANC in the province and would be writing a formal letter to them regarding the issue of food distribution. 

Meanwhile, KZN premier Sihle Zikalala warned against politicising food distribution during Covid-19. 

"We cannot allow a situation where food parcels meant to assist our hungry communities are politicised. Food parcels are meant to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19, especially in poor and vulnerable communities. As the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, we cannot condone the politicisation of food parcels," said Zikalala. 

His warning came in the wake of several allegations in the province of corruption and favouritism in the distribution of food parcels. 

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