The poor's lot has got worse, giving and sympathy will help

An elderly woman sits on a crate as hundreds of people queue to collect food parcels at Iterileng Informal settlement near Laudium, southwestern Pretoria, last week. We can also play our role to cushion Covid-19 hardships by making donations. / Sebabatso Mosamo
An elderly woman sits on a crate as hundreds of people queue to collect food parcels at Iterileng Informal settlement near Laudium, southwestern Pretoria, last week. We can also play our role to cushion Covid-19 hardships by making donations. / Sebabatso Mosamo

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would be under an unprecedented lockdown as of March 27 2020, none of us quite knew what the effects would be.

Taking global trends into cognisance and the inability to correctly predict how catastrophic this disease will be for fellow South Africans, one cannot help but commend the swift action of the lockdown.

But in a country like ours, do we really know what the cost of such a lockdown is? Are those making the decisions of extensions and regulations in touch with the realities of everyday life in townships and rural areas?

Current happenings suggest failure to address hardships experienced beyond the suburbs. At the beginning it was all too easy for the rich to berate fellow poor South Africans, who are mainly black, when they flocked to stores after the start of the lockdown. The poor had not had the opportunity to buy groceries ahead of the lockdown date as it was before paydays on the 25th and 30th of March.

Those who had stockpiled and sat in their homes to observe the rules, became social distance police and called for strict measures to be taken against those who were simply doing what the privileged had managed to do prior to the lockdown.

Many families have extra mouths to feed with depleted funds and no means of generating an income as the bulk of our industries remain closed.

Thousands of South Africans who make a living informally and do not meet the categories required for the unemployment fund are home and without means of generating an income to feed their families.

And then there is the issues of children who have been away from school for seven weeks now, with a large number dependent on their school feeding schemes. But with schools out for so long, many children are as result going through hunger.

I must admit, however, that it is commendable that many South Africans have heeded the call of the president and by far and large respected the stipulations of the lockdown, albeit with difficulty, while some dug deep to give to donate to the poor.

My personal struggle during this lockdown has been turning the situation inward and asking what I can do in my own capacity to assist fight hunger in our townships.

I've been blessed with a partner who has a big heart and is constantly looking for ways to be of service to others.

Knowing first-hand the struggles that our brothers and sisters face in townships, we decided to join forces and resources and assist where we could.

Through the Letoya Makhene Foundation, we donated food parcels in Alexandra on April 27.

In this one of the poorest townships in the country, we felt it would be befitting to assist where we could. We also served soup to kids in Soweto. While we understand that we may not cure world hunger through these efforts, we are hopeful that this will inspire others to assist where they can.

There are various methods of providing assistance which include the solidarity fund, but I think those who can organise to volunteer or donate in their personal capacities should do so.

Government is trying to alleviate some of the pressures through various relief programmes and the topping-up of grants for Sassa recipients.

Government has also gone a step further with the introduction of R350 for the jobless.

Keswa is a businesswoman

Twitter: @LebohangKeswa

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