The residents claimed that the ward councillor and the committee members had fraudulently distributed the food parcels amongst their friends and family members.
HUNDREDS of community members of Leerkrans, situated about 30 kilometres from Upington, gathered under the scorching sun early on Wednesday morning, waiting for their promised food parcels which had been rescued by the police the night before after apparently being stolen.
The crowd consisted mostly of elderly people, including 94-year-old Bets Links, the eldest resident of the small community.
Residents said they gathered at the community hall from before 8am, waiting for the food parcels that had allegedly been stolen, according to the residents, by the ward councillor and committee members.
The residents claimed that the ward councillor and the committee members had fraudulently distributed the food parcels amongst their friends and family members late on Tuesday afternoon.
They said that they found some of the food products hidden inside the homes of the committee members as well as in a room at a nearby dam.
The residents said they alerted the police and later two police vans were seen packed full of bags of mealie meal and bread flour.
Some other food items were allegedly confiscated by the police from the homes of family and friends of the committee members.
The crowd said the police promised that they would distribute the food parcels to the needy on Wednesday morning. However, by lunchtime they were still waiting.
“We heard that these people (committee members) were giving food parcels to their family and friends. We followed the bakkie they were using to transport the parcels. We saw them going to the dam and hiding the flour inside a room there. We then followed them to a house of one of their family members and confronted the people at that house. The woman of the house admitted that parcels had been left at the house. We then called the police and they collected the food. The committee members ran away,” the residents said on Wednesday.
“We waited for the police to distribute the food as they took the parcels away last night. We have all gathered here as we are hungry and our only hope is the food parcels that we are supposed to receive.”
The elderly community members said that although they were aware that they were at risk of contracting the coronavirus, they had no choice but to wait with the other residents.
“We were told that the elderly would get preference when it comes to the distribution of food parcels. We have no food inside our homes as we are elderly and our only income is our social grants. We had to come here and wait as we are afraid that otherwise we will not get our food parcels. There is already corruption happening with these food parcels and we might just be overlooked when the parcels are distributed,” they said.
Links, who could barely stand and was peeping through one eye as the other one was sore, said that she had been waiting for hours for the food parcels to be distributed.
“I am staying with my unemployed son-in-law. He currently has no work as he is a seasonal worker. The majority of the people and youngsters in this area are seasonal workers. They are currently all just lying at home as it is not yet harvest season for the grapes. I have no food at home and have to wait as I heard that the food parcels will be distributed today,” she said softly.
The crowd, which had become restless and angry, said that they wanted the heads of the ward councillor and the committee members to roll.
“This is just one of the many unfair and corrupt acts these people commit. Last Saturday there was a bakkie full of soap bars which was meant to be distributed among the community. We do not know what happened to that soap as the community never received even one bar. We were told that we are supposed to wash our hands to curb the spread of the virus but how can we buy soap if we do not even have a loaf of bread,” they said.
“In this community of about 500 households, there are no prospects for the youth. They have to rely on seasonal work as a means of an income. Some go to the neighbouring towns in search of work but with the lockdown they are not able to do that. If one moves around then the police want to arrest you. You cannot risk sitting behind bars and having to pay a fine. The committee members even selected who can be employed at the local solar farm. We have so many matriculants who are jobless. They are able to use a broom or wave a flag but they were robbed of that opportunity as the committee members call the shots on who should be employed,” the community members added.
By 1pm on Wednesday the food parcels had still not arrived but residents continued to wait in the street.