By PHILIP MACHANICK, vice-chair of the Makana Citizens Front and Ward 4 councillor candidate
A post on the ANC Makana sub-region Facebook page has made some highly divisive claims amounting to accusing the white business community of trying to buy off the black community with food aid.
I congratulate the ANC on deleting this, and I hope this means they repudiate it too. But it is obviously a thought that is doing the rounds, and we need to confront it.
When the Covid lockdown first started, many people realised that hunger would be a huge problem and sprang into action to address this. Most of the organisations involved are not politically active, including existing food aid schemes, Makhanda Circle of Unity, Red Cross and Makana Residents’ Association. While it is true that some white businesses gave generously, they were by no means the only donors. The Kolisi Foundation, Gift of the Givers and Kagiso Trust were significant donors, and Oxfam has since provided a lot of support through the Unemployed People’s Movement.
The government fully understood that the problem was far beyond the scale where they could intervene and quite correctly stood back to allow civil society to handle the situation. Had we relied on councillors handing out food parcels, councillors would have been extremely unpopular as there was far too little government-supplied food to go around.
Today, we still have numerous community kitchens, some funded out of very meagre resources – not only out of external aid. Even some who now get aid were funded out of pensions and modest salaries at the start. The people who run these are real heroes.
Even if this is not an officially approved message, it is sad that any ANC member should attack such a wide-ranging and necessary community effort. Active citizenship is something everyone should support, irrespective of political affiliation.
I was one of those who took part in organising food aid. I played a minimal role compared with others, and I was proud of how our community stood together at a time of disaster. When I took part, I certainly had no plan to get involved in the municipal elections.
Now I am campaigning for Makana Citizens Front; if my involvement in food aid is somehow a crime, I plead guilty. Whenever my neighbours are in trouble, I will be there for them.
Instead of attacking this, I plead with the author of that now-deleted diatribe to develop the same attitude to those in need. Step up and help. Don’t be a bystander if you can do anything. Be prepared to get your hands dirty. And don’t only do it when an election is looming.