SA’s starving ‘missing middle’

Police and members of The SANDF patrolled Setjwetla , an informal settlement, in Alexandra. Many residents of Setjwetla in Alexandra gathered in the road to protest. The group were complaining about the distribution of food parcels. They say they are extremely hungry. There has been protests in the area.
Image: PHOTOGRAPH: ALON SKUY

By KARABO LEDWABA

South Africa’s ‘missing middle’ is going hungry. These are people who do not qualify for social grants but are not fully employed.

This is according to Operation Hunger’s interim CEO Sandy Bukula.

She told SowetanLIVE that the organisation is seeing more and more people that fall into this bracket come looking for food relief.

“The lockdown has seen us get an increase in the number of people who need immediate support. With an overwhelming amount of between 150 and 200 new requests daily, we have identified this new entrance as those who do not qualify for government grants or other formal government incentives while being unable to get the weekly, daily or contract income that sustained them before the lockdown,” said Bukula.

“These are your daily/ cash self-employed individuals, commision-based earners; temporary/casual employments, individuals below the minimum wage who could not have prepared themselves for the lockdown as their income is dependent on them working and not enough investments into their savings. We have categorised these individuals as the missing middle to immediate aid,” she said.

Although operation hunger generally feeds between 40 000 to 60 000 people a day through their soup kitchens, they have had to cut back astronomically to curb the spread of covid-19.

“In adherence to our government and WHO guidelines on public gatherings, we have temporarily suspended our mass feeding programmes,” said Bukula.

She told SowetanLIVE that they are currently feeding 4,000 people (or 500 families) a day during lockdown through a food hamper distribution process.

Bukula said organisations like Operation Hunger are not equiped to feed new groups of people such as the missing middle for an extended time frame.

Yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced several economic relief plans to help the poor. Unemployed people who have no access to UIF funds will be recieveing a temporary R350 grant, child grants will be increased by R300 in May, increasing to R500 extra from June to October. While other grants will increase by R250 for the next six months.

The department of social development is yet to announce how unemployed people can access their grant.

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