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Chaos at city food parcel handover

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Needy Roodepan community members left high and dry as department’s vans speed off with promised food parcels.

Roodepan residents gather to collect food parcels. Pictures: Danie van der Lith

COMMUNITY members in Roodepan were left fuming after vans belonging to the Northern Cape Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs sped off with food parcels that were meant for residents of Bogonia shacks.

Elderly and poor community members were left high and dry on Tuesday after being summoned by a blaring loudhailer to come and collect food parcels at a tent in the informal settlement.

They felt “embarrassed and betrayed” as they watched the vans filled with the promised food parcels leave without any of the packages being distributed.

It is believed that the planned food parcel handover formed part of the Northern Cape Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs’ (Coghsta) Disaster Relief Programme.

According to the disappointed community members, they had earlier in the day heeded the call to go and register in order to receive food parcels.

They said four vans filled with food parcels were parked at the tent when they started to arrive.

After the vans sped off, chaos erupted as some of the community members swarmed around the Coghsta officials who remained behind carrying lists of the intended beneficiaries.

The officials reportedly told them that the event was cancelled due to the unavailability of a delegation from a church that was a key partner in the programme.

The officials said that the church delegation was caught up in a meeting.

Political leaders from the DA and the Good parties in the Northern Cape were present at the event and expressed their dissatisfaction over the lack of transparency around the programme.

The Coghsta officials were accused of wanting to politicise the handover and of “exchanging food parcels for votes”.

“We feel that they wanted to use the event to campaign but felt threatened and withdrew when they saw us,” said a community member who was wearing a Good T-shirt.

Coghsta later apologised for the “misunderstanding” and promised that another date would be set for the handover.

Department spokesperson Lerato Khunou said on Thursday that the “cancellation” of the handover on Tuesday was purely due to unforeseen circumstances.

“Officials have no duty to politicise any government programme because government officials are there to serve the community across all political spheres without any fear or favour,” said Khunou.

“We do apologise unreservedly for any misunderstanding that this may have caused and we wish to advise that a new date for the Disaster Relief Programme launch in the Frances Baard District will be set after consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

“We are very conscious of the socio-economic hardships that our communities face and we want to advise that this programme will be rolled out in the same manner in which it has been rolled out in other regions in the Province,” Khunou assured.