Gauteng residents continue to starve as MEC Hlophe pays for empty food banks

Issued by Refiloe Nt’sekhe MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Social Development
20 Feb 2024 in Press Statements

Food banks in Gauteng continue to receive payments from the Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD) without being assigned the responsibility of distributing food, leaving the poor and vulnerable in our province to starve.

This was first discovered by the Democratic Alliance (DA) during its unannounced oversight visits to food banks in Gauteng’s five regions, prompted by several complaints from beneficiaries that they were not getting any food.

During these inspections, the DA discovered that food banks lacked or had insufficient stock.

The DA’s findings have since been confirmed by the GDSD portfolio committee during an oversight meeting, held on Friday, 16 February 2024, at one of the food banks with all food bank managers in attendance. The committee found that all food bank managers from all five regions continue to be paid as per the Service Level Agreements (SLA) to receive and distribute food items to beneficiaries as per the list provided by the GDSD, despite months of not receiving food items. The committee also learned that none of the food banks had been notified that they were in breach of their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) or that they were under administration. Furthermore, some warehouses had empty shelves for food parcel ingredients, while others had none.

It is ridiculous that the department funds food banks to conduct their operations and compensate workers for food parcel distribution when there is no food to distribute. We also find it concerning that, despite our warning that food banks had dried up in December 2023, the department has not taken any action to remedy the situation.

Instead, in a recent media interview, Social Development MEC Mbali Hlophe stated that the distribution of food to the food banks had been cancelled because the tender specifications did not include seeds. This is confusing because the department’s tender criteria excluded seeds. Besides, not everyone eligible for a food parcel can have a food garden to grow the seeds as the department claims to be an immediate solution to starvation in Gauteng.

The tender process has been finalised but has not been communicated to successful bidders. It doesn’t make sense that the department would cancel an entire tender instead of sourcing seeds when required by beneficiaries.

The DA will be tabling questions to MEC Hlophe in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to seek clarity on why food banks continue to receive funding but do not have the role of distributing food. We want to know whether other organisations are distributing food and how they were contracted while the food bank contracts were still in place.