Farmers would rather destroy their food donations before giving it to the government to centrally control it.
They will also continue to donate food to NGOs of their choice to distribute “regardless of the government’s dictatorial efforts to control food donations and their distribution”.
“Farmers simply refuse to obey the government’s demands that food is centrally controlled. They say they would rather destroy their food donations than giving it to the government to distribute, ”says Theo de Jager, president of the World Agricultural Organization and chair of the agricultural network organization Saai (Southern Africa Agri Initiative).
The Cape Town High Court on Friday ordered the government not to stop anyone from distributing or receiving food. The DA asked the court to invalidate Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, ban on soup kitchens and regulations that centralize the distribution of food parcels.
The court ordered the distribution of food by non-governmental organizations to continue normally for the next three weeks until he hears the case. The case was postponed to June 19.
According to the DA, the department has already started implementing draft regulations on the centralization of food parcels. The party argues that many non-governmental organizations involved in handing out food parcels have already been told to stop by police and social development officials.
Non-governmental organizations can be arrested if they distribute food, the DA says. He argues in court that the minister has no authority to issue such regulations, that the regulations are irrational, that she did not follow the proper procedures and that the regulations violate the constitutional right of access to food.
De Jager says municipal officials have already confronted him about food donations. “The officials want to know where we download food and how we determine who gets food.”
He says farmers expect them to know exactly where their food donations are going and not to waste it. “Farmers fear that they may end food donations by city council members who use it for political reasons or in spaza shops, where it is sold to a poor profit.
“We view the centralization of food donations as meaningless and that this drives an ideological agenda. We simply don’t buy the state’s explanation that it is for quality control. “
De Jager says many of the farmers’ food donations are distributed in rural areas, where people have been waiting for weeks for the government to feed them.
“We are constantly receiving emergency calls from vulnerable people asking for help because they are not getting any help from the state.”
He says farmers are also trying to ensure that food parcels reach their seasonal workers.
According to him, centralizing food distribution is also impractical for farmers because they will have to transfer their donations to government-identified warehouses at their own expense.
He says Saai has already made 210 000 meals available during the past week, distributed by AfriForum and Solidarity Helping Hand. The food was taken to church halls converted into storerooms.
Christo van der Rheede, deputy executive director of Agri SA, says they strongly oppose the department’s guidelines. “The government is not going to prescribe for us who we can provide food for and we do not disturb Zulu’s efforts to enforce its policy.”
Van der Rheede says they are involved in various projects in collaboration with non-governmental and charitable organizations to ensure that large numbers of people are not starving. “These are organizations with existing networks that have existed for years.”
According to him, Agri SA has a good relationship with the police to maintain order when loading food in certain areas. He says Agri SA, among other things, has donated thousands of meals to the charity Food Forward SA to help feed the most needy people during Covid-19.
“If it wasn’t for farmers, the country was in trouble for a long time.”
Ian Cameron, head of community safety at AfriForum, says AfriForum and Solidarity Helping Hand will not accept food centralization or the regulation of food donations and will continue to distribute food to people in need.