When lockdown began on 26 March 2020, many families were left without an income, especially those who were precariously employed or earned a living under the ‘no work no pay’ structure. The number of South Africans facing food insecurity leaped, with many still facing the same challenges, despite an easing of restrictions.
Inspired by the mantra of the Congress of South African Students, Each One Teach One, the Nelson Mandela Foundation called on South Africans to play their part in the Covid-19 #Each1Feed1 campaign. They partnered with various organisations, including the Imbumba Foundation and the Kolisi Foundation, to fast-track food distribution networks in disadvantaged communities.
‘As South Africans, it is our duty to ensure that our neighbours do not go hungry, and that we show solidarity with their cause,’ says the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang. ‘The #Each1Feed1 campaign basically means that if each one of us takes responsibility to feed one family, not a single person in South Africa will go hungry.’
The Nelson Mandela Foundation kicked off the campaign with its own donation R500 000, and also received private donations amounting to R140 994 and R3 210 954. They distributed over 8 603 food parcels, each able to support a family of four for a month.
Hatang, who drove more than 18 000 km countrywide to personally deliver parcels, says he was inspired by the generosity and the perseverance that he found among the poorest of poor. ‘What really touched me were the people who didn’t wait for help to arrive, the ones who kept trying to help themselves and their communities, despite their dire circumstances.
One such example was the community who helped an undocumented elderly woman whose shack was destroyed by a storm. ‘The community, poor as they were, jumped in to help, and among themselves, managed to raise enough funds to build a two-bedroom brick house,’ explains Hatang.
Another example was a community in the North-West province. ‘We didn’t have enough supplies with us, and two families received nothing. However, soon they had plenty as the ones who have received parcels shared their supplies with them,’ says Hatang.
Unfortunately, not everyone embraced generosity and solidarity during this time. ‘We also came across communities where people were hoarding goods that were meant to benefit the whole community. These were people who were driven by fear of what might happen in the future and thinking only of their own needs.’
As always, crisis brought out the best and the worst in humanity. Hatang believes we have much to learn from the pandemic and the many flaws and fissures it revealed. He itemised these as follows:
- Corruption: We read about officials stealing food parcels from disadvantaged communities. ‘This infuriated me,’ says Hatang. ‘There is no justification for stealing from the poor.’
- Inconsistent regulations: ‘In an effort to control the disease, the state ended up wanting to control the people. For example, regulations that banned people from buying a T-shirt unless they wore it under a jacket. Once legitimacy is lost, it is difficult to regain. When we look back, we will ask ourselves how did we lose legitimacy and ended up abusing our power?’
- Brutal security force: ‘Security forces who were mandated to defend the Constitution ended up abusing their power. Pictures of soldiers helping a granny to cross a road inspired me, but then there were also pictures of law enforcement evicting a naked man from his house in the middle of winter. Have we not learnt from our past? We should always remind ourselves how important human dignity is.’
- Gender-based violence: ‘There were many stories of gender-based violence during lockdown. We as citizens must show solidarity with the vulnerable. There is a saying that says, if your house is burning, it should be as if my house is burning.’
- Collaboration with civil society: ‘It would be good to see government collaborating with civil society in similar ways to which it has been working with business. Although civil society might not have the financial resources, they have the expertise of working with communities.’
Hatang says the Nelson Mandela Foundation will continue their efforts to support families in need, spurred by the simple words of Nelson Mandela: ‘What counts in this life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.’