600 000 Free Staters Go To Bed Hungry

  • 60% of salaries in SA spent on mainly food
  • MECs call for fight against hunger

 “Today we cannot expect to feed on Manna from heaven, because days of miracles are over. Today you have to live by your sweat, plant your gardens, put your hands on deck and help defeat hunger.”

This strong message was delivered by Social Development MEC Mamiki Qabathe yesterday during an event to mark World Food Day Commemorations held at the Glen Agricultural College in Bloemfontein.

Qabathe’s sobering challenge comes amidst chilling revelations that about 6000 000 people go to bed on an empty stomach each day in the Free State.

Out of the provincial population of 2.8 million, almost half -1.1 million – people are social grant beneficiaries and rely on government support for their survival.

Globally 820 million people live below the bread line and go to bed without consuming anything at all. In South Africa the picture also looks grim, with over 13 million people not having food to eat every day and not knowing where their next meal will come from.

Qabathe said there is a huge difference between hunger and poverty – hunger is an issue of attitude unlike poverty, which is a social issue.

“Poverty is hard to beat, the South African government is doing all it can to fight it. However hunger is an attitude matter, because indeed you don’t have to go hungry just because you are poor,” she noted.

The MEC urged residents to replace their green lawns with vegetables to ensure the scarce water given to them freely by government is put to good use that will benefit them later.

Addressing the same gathering agriculture and rural development MEC William Bulwane said World Food Day was aimed at raising awareness on issues of food security.

Bulwane called on Glen Village residents to use the soil to chase ‘the mouse out of the house’.

“This day is aimed at ensuring that everyone eats, not once a year, but each and every day,” he noted, adding funds spent by government on social relief and other programmes annually could be better utilised to create employment.

This could only be achieved if people had their own backyard gardens to fight hunger. “It is a pity that South Africans expect everything from government, free social grants plus free water and electricity. When we are sick we want government to attend to us for free, and to educate our children for free. If government puts money into these programmes, there is little left to create jobs. We would rather create jobs and people are able to provide for themselves,” said Bulwane.

The MEC added regardless of the indigent status of the residents who apply for exemption in paying for rates and services, service providers still want their payment.

The equitable share of government funding to the province goes towards paying for relied programmes instead of being spent on employment creation, he pointed out.

He called on young people in the Free State, the most affected by the high unemployment, to take the initiative and organise themselves and utilise vacant lands to plant vegetables for sale.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has made a clarion call to Free Staters to plant food gardens and help reduce hunger drastically by 2030.

Studies shown that even for those working, the situation is still dire since as 60 percent of salaries in South Africa today are spent on mainly buying food.

Yesterday’s event was also aimed at remembering the multitudes of people that go to bed hungry, and to encourage locals to plant vegetables in their own yards.

A food mountain placed at the local hall to commemorate the day, made up of vegetables and an assortment of dietaries, was said to be a challenge for locals to mount next year during the commemorations, with produce from their own backyards.

The day commenced with a tree planting exercise at two households, one belonging to 86-year-old Johannes Madikgetla, including a donation of food parcels.

A tree planted by both Bulwane and Qabathe in the yard was named “William,” after the MEC’s first name.

The happy homeowner, Maletshaba Madikgetla, vowed to look after it and water it each day.

“William won’t die, not as long as I’m here,” she said excitedly.

By: Ramosidi Matekane