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NPO threatens legal action over food distribution

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Solidarity Helping Hand prepared to go to court should government implement regulations to centralise food aid under its control

NON-PROFIT organisation (NPO) Solidarity Helping Hand has threatened to take legal action against those calling for the centralisation of food distribution under the auspices of the government.

The organisation said the stance was against the Covid-19 regulations, which allowed people with required permits to lend a helping hand to communities in distress.

Its chief executive Hannes Noëth said: “If anyone should prevent Helping Hand from performing distress relief activities, such a person would be contravening the law.”

According to recent reports, the Gauteng government prescribed guidelines requiring the NPOs to hand over food parcels to its five food banks for a better distribution.

Last week the civil rights group #NotInMyName faced threats from the Gauteng Department of Social Development, which vowed to prevent the organisation from distributing food parcels should it do so outside of the stipulated guidelines.

In terms of the guidelines, all NPOs are expected to gather food parcels and hand them to the department, which would then co-ordinate the distribution to recipients.

Secretary of #NotInMyName Themba Masango, however, refused to hand over food parcels to the department given its “history of mismanagement of funds”.

Noëth said that the NPOs must be allowed to roll out assistance seeking to relieve distress among the poverty-stricken communities.

He called on charity organisations with required permits to perform social relief activities to contact Helping Hand’s legal team should they be prevented from doing their work.

“If anyone should prevent Helping Hand from performing distress relief activities, such a person would be contravening the law. Should the government take this right away, Helping Hand will take the matter to court,” he said.

He said the Solidarity trade union and the civil rights organisation AfriForum have already pledged R100 000 to assist in a possible court action.

In addition, the business group Sakeliga has also donated an amount of R200 000 to the NPO.

“These funds are earmarked for distress relief and, if necessary, legal action to prevent the state’s capturing or nationalisation of goodwill,” Noëth said.

Also joining the fray against the centralisation of food aid was the Institute of Race Relations, which believed the stance flew in the face of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for a national effort.

The institute labelled the government’s stance as being “irrational, impractical and callous”.

A researcher at the institution, Nicholas Babaya, said: “Any government which genuinely wanted to help its starving citizenry would welcome any and all acts of charity from civil society. Unfortunately, these regulations and steps taken by politicians only strengthen the impression that the ANC is a power-drunk party intent on making the state the provider of all things, even if it means letting the most vulnerable South Africans suffer unnecessarily.”

The Helping Hand has asked all NPOs that could be prevented from donating food aid to contact it by e-mailing their complaints to [email protected]