COVID-19 NGO food distribution; SRD R350 grant; with Ministry

Social Development

29 May 2020
Chairperson: Mr M Gungubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: PC on Social Development and SC on Health and Social Services,29 May 2020
Audio: NGOs on the Covid19 food security programmes; DSD on its Covid 19 response     Part 2

Four NGOs – Solidarity Fund; Red Cross Society; FoodForward South Africa; Gift of the Givers – briefed a joint virtual meeting of the Portfolio and Select Committees on their food security programmes followed by a response by the Ministry and Department. SASSA provided an update on COVID-19 special grant. There was no time to discuss the quarterly foster care progress report required to be provided to the North Gauteng High Court and the Centre for Child Law.

Solidarity Fund spoke to the short-term nature of it work, emphasised that it aimed primarily on augmenting the work being done by NGOs in support of the health sector and that addressing food security was a secondary concern, with 20% of its budget allocated for food security assistance. It spoke to its food distribution strategy, its four streams of assistance and the challenges and lessons learnt from its work.

The South African Red Cross Society presented its disaster management initiatives. It spoke about the training provided by volunteers to communities; its social development model of providing interventions to communities; and its work with the DSD, Solidarity Fund and SASSA. It emphasised the need for better multi-sectoral coordination as key for preparation in the event of future disasters.

FoodForward SA spoke to its social impact through the redistribution of edible surplus food gathered throughout the supply chain. It indicated its measurable impact on addressing the problem of hunger with an average meal costing R0.85. It spoke to it various programmes including food banking, distribution of food parcels and its collaboration with other NGOs. It received no government support and expressed the hope that this would change. FoodForward SA and Werksmans Attorneys had drawn up the Ubuntu Bill and it would like to present it to Parliament.

Gift of the Givers spoke to its aim to strengthen the National Health Department by providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers and setting up triage tents outside of hospitals for people displaying symptoms. It emphasised the need to engage with and empower communities through an intellectual transfer of information when developing strategies to assist them. It raised concerns about a new kind of indigent person who may not be on the lists available to government because they may recently have become unemployed. The only people who can identify this new kind of indigent are CBOs and faith leaders. It encouraged DSD and NGOs ought to work with faith leaders and CBOs to acquire this information so that no-one is left out from assistance.

Members asked questions on  the selection criterion used by the NGOs to choose its beneficiaries and its partner NGOs and CBO; if the reach of the NGOs had expanded during the COVID-19 crisis; and the impact of the extended lockdown on their work. It showed great interest in the Ubuntu Bill and emphasised the need for greater coordination between DSD and civil society. It took particular note of the concerns about a new kind of indigent and emphasised the need for DSD to become aware of them. They asked for detailed information on the strategies for delivering food parcels and the databases relied on to ensure they are getting to the right people and that duplication of assistance is avoided.

The Department spoke to its food-distribution mechanisms, strategy and databases. It spoke to its desire to improve monitoring and evaluation and provided a graphic representation of food needs. SASSA spoke to the Committee about its medium-term plan, explained the reason for the overnight queues due to the Level Four requirement of only having a third of its work force in office at a time. It gave a progress update on the special social relief of distress (SRD) grant and said food parcels would continue until the grant is paid out.

The Minister was upset that National DSD had been wrongly associated with the Gauteng MEC directives about centralising food distribution. The Minister had a serious problem with DSD being taken to court for things it had not done. Gauteng should have been be taken to court without bringing DSD into the matter because in the public eye, it has now created an unfair situation where it was being said that DSD is stopping people from distributing food when it did not. However, the Minister said that people are not guinea pigs. DSD needs to ensure that the food is proper and nutritional. She emphasised that the DSD would not tolerate being disrespected. While discussing the North Gauteng High Court foster care progress report, she asked that the Committee to rely on formally acquired information as opposed to leaked information, so that the DSD and the Committee could continue to work well together.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson stated that South Africa is near the eve of Lockdown Level 3. He noted the challenges being seen in hotspot areas where the virus is spreading in an unacceptable way and these areas also experience challenges with food insecurity. Civil society leadership is present to share its experiences in dealing with these challenges. He expressed the hope that together they can find a coherent way of helping more people in a quality way.

Four NGOs are presenting—Solidarity Fund; Red Cross Society; FoodForward SA; Gift of the Givers. This will be followed by the Department on its COVID-19 response and the North Gauteng High Court foster care progress report

Solidarity Fund briefing on COVID-19 food security programme
Ms Nicola Galombik, Head: Disbursements and Deployments at the Solidarity Fund, explained that the Fund was a vehicle announced by the President on 23 March 2020 in an effort to unite the nation in response to COVID-19. It is a rapid response vehicle designed to fund impactful initiatives in the short term that will augment health and humanitarian efforts by government, the private sector and civil society. It is, however, separate from government and business and has its own board. The establishment of the Fund coincided with the beginning of Level 5 of the lockdown and therefore is only a few weeks old as an organisation.

Key Principles for Solidarity Fund Response
Very early on the Fund realised that the lockdown would exacerbate existing food security challenges. The Fund tried to identify a variety of partners who would identify beneficiaries comprising of the most vulnerable households. The initial target set was 250 000 households.

Food parcel distribution strategy
The target was surpassed with food parcels distributed to 280 000 households. These parcels were smaller parcels than those normally distributed by DSD as they were designed to address severe hunger during the lockdown. Distribution began on 15 April and 22 May. The Fund worked with four streams of distribution:

1 DSD Community Nutrition Development Centres (CNDCs)
2 Large food Non Profit Organisations (NPOs)
3 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Faith Based Organisations in order to reach areas not normally accessible to government assistance.
4 Voucher distribution—it expects to go over the 300 000 mark using this method.

She said that the reach was broad and the presentation indicated a map of provincial reach.

Challenges and Lessons Learnt
Although the Fund does not consider it to be a long-term solution it hopes that some of the lessons it has learnt will benefit others who will take this work forward, first and foremost, the DSD itself. Solidarity Fund experienced supply chain stock shortages, particularly of lentils and maize; however, they were able to make substitutions. Transportation of fresh produce was a challenge, even though the Fund was sourcing locally. The final and most important lesson learnt and the reason they were able to have the impact they had was due to the coordination of government, private sector and NGOs, particularly very small local NGOs and faith-based organisations.

South African Red Cross Society on COVID-19 food security programme
Ms Mabel Koketso, Acting Director of the South African Red Cross, said the Red Cross Society is an auxiliary to governments and is a permanent observer at the United Nations and African Union since the UN recognised the Geneva Conventions. After South Africa being a signatory to the Geneva Convention, legislation established the Red Cross as a humanitarian organisation auxiliary to government, which means that it has specific legal status characterised by international law and the rules of legislation in each state. It means that governments who are signatories to the Geneva Convention participate in the highest level of decision-making of the Red Cross at its International Conference with 192 societies in the world.

Disaster Management Services
The way the Red Cross movement works at local level is by complementing and supporting government humanitarian efforts of disaster management, healthcare and social services. Under normal circumstances, the Red Cross has been providing health and care services in different provinces using both volunteers and staff. It has provided peer education, community- based first aid, and community TB care, prevention, testing and support. During the state of disaster, it has been providing community-based risk reduction, livelihood and food security, disaster risk reduction and restorative family links which aims at tracing missing relatives.

Social Development
The Society has various social development centres and has been looking after orphans, child-headed households and other vulnerable children. It has been working closely with the Department of Social Development and civil society partners. Vulnerability assessments are conducted which begin with an emergency needs assessment where a thorough assessment is done to understand the needs of the communities at local level. This is meant to avoid unnecessary risks, the provision of inappropriate relief and the duplication of efforts. These assessments are done in partnership with community leaders, DSD and community partners. After the assessment, they have beneficiary registration which goes onto their database for ease of access and to ensure transparency.

Training on COVID-19
The Red Cross considered itself to be among the first responders to engage with government on how they could support responses to COVID-19. Volunteers were trained to go out and inform communities about hygiene and dispel myths. Contact tracing has also been implemented.

Reach was expanded to implement screening and nurses were sent out to collect swabs for testing. More than 406 000 people have been contact traced and more than 280 107 food parcels have been distributed. Myth-buster stickers have been pasted in malls and demonstrations on washing hands have been made.

Partnership with the Department of Social Development, Solidarity Fund and SASSA
There is a close engagement with DSD as has been seen by different Members of the Executive Council (MECs) have been working with the Society and it continues to distribute assistance in all nine provinces.

Lessons Learnt
It finds that preparedness is key and moving forward, it suggests that preparation take place when things are calm so that multi-sectoral coordination can be executed successfully in the event that something like this happens again, all parties know what they are doing. The Society said that the efforts made thus far by DSD and other, were however appreciated, but said that coordination will avoid duplication of efforts. Safety was a concern, however before the Society began distributing, it had engaged with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that its volunteers were safe. There were one or two instances where they were asked to accompany their volunteers. Better coordination of all involved would ensure that opportunistic people who try to take advantage of the crisis do not succeed.

FoodForward South Africa on COVID-19 food security programme
Mr Andy Du Plessis, Managing Director of FoodForward SA, noted that it is a registered NPO and its core business is the recovery of edible surplus food from the supply chain. This includes farmers, manufacturers and retailers. One third of the food in South Africa ends up as wasted food, which gives FoodForward a huge opportunity to harness that food. It is a registered Food Bank and is registered with Global Food Banking Network. Its goal is to reduce hunger in South Africa. Surplus food results for a number of reasons: over-production, incorrect labelling and damaged goods among other things.

Social Impact
Before the advent of COVID-19, it was operating in six provinces but since then it has ramped up its operations and is hoping to be operative in all nine provinces within the next few weeks. In the last financial year, 5 115 tonnes of food were distributed which amounted to 20 million meals. It has a factor called cost per meal, which it identified as R0,85. Before COVID-19 it had about 670 beneficiary organisations, but it now supports 1 005 beneficiary organisations because of the huge demand for food support. This amounts to roughly 412 000 individuals being assisted daily.

These include Warehouse FoodBanking, FoodShare/ Virtual Food Banking—which connects beneficiary organisations virtually to retail stores for the collection of surplus food from businesses such as Pick n Pay, Woolworths and FoodLovers Market; and Second Harvest—which involves collecting surplus foods directly from farmers. A partnership has just been formed with Agri-SA and the Citrus Growers Association which will be announced soon. FoodForward takes food from its warehouses which are in urban centres directly to rural areas where it is distributed through mobile rural depots. It also has a supply chain internship and large-scale feeding programmes.

Second Harvest
Business relationships with farmers and third-party manufacturers have allowed them to make tomato and pasta sauce under its own name with the excess tomatoes it receives from farmers.

Partnership Benefits
For every tonne of food recovered, 4 tonnes of greenhouse gasses are saved from going into the atmosphere. As the cost per meal is R0.85, it makes food banking the most cost-effective model to address the problem of hunger and its impact is measurable. It has national infrastructure with warehouses, cold-rooms and refrigerated trucks. 75% of its partner organisations focus on education, skills development, women and youth. Tax benefits are given to food donors and in the previous financial year it distributed more than R230 million worth of food.

Challenges and Opportunities
About a month ago it distributed 86 000 food parcels across five provinces on behalf of the Solidarity Fund using 300 charities in vulnerable communities. It took about 10 days to do this. On their own efforts they have moved between 120 000 and 130 000 food parcels in the last few weeks. Food security needs will increase as COVID-19 would remain with SA for another 18-24 months. Although it does not receive any government support, he expressed the hope that by the end of the meeting someone would engage with them about support for its work. It has also put together an Ubuntu Bill together with Werksmans and asked how they could go about getting such a Bill passed through Parliament.

Gift of the Givers on COVID-19 food security programme
Mr Badr Kazi, Director at Gift of the Givers, said its first strategy was to strengthen the National Health Department. It felt that frontline healthcare workers had to be protected with PPE and it has set up 30 triage tents outside various hospitals throughout the country so that those displaying symptoms can be treated separately from the rest of the hospital population. Gift of the Givers has had a two-tier approach on the medical side with the provision of PPE to hospitals and the setting up of these triage facilities.

It has used its 28-year experience to contact existing organisations such as CBOs and faith-based organisations to provide bulk food to those that were able to work throughout the lockdown. It had 102 feeding centres which existed throughout the country before COVID-19; however 70 000 food parcels were distributed together with the DSD in all provinces, with a focus being on Limpopo, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape as they had the most rural populations.

Engaging with Communities for distributing food parcels
He noted the concern that not enough organisations were engaged with in providing assistance to people. He recommended that going forward, organisations in townships and informal sectors need to become a part of the solution. There needs to be empowerment in the intellectual transfer of knowledge, and not just the reception of food parcels so that people do not feel that decisions are simply being made for them. He thanked the Committee for inviting them and said there could be many other NGOs who could be present at the meeting.

Identifying the New Kind of Indigent
He raised the point that people like local mechanics and hairdressers have emerged as the new kind of indigent as they are now facing unemployment. Although subsidies have been available, there are many people who do not qualify for aid on any of the lists before organisations and government. The only people who have this kind of information are faith leaders and CBOs as they will know who has recently become unemployed.

On the medical side, challenges remain around the distribution of food and aid to the most vulnerable. He expressed hopes that recommendations would be taken forward and that this would not be the last conversation of this time. He thanked DSD, SAPS the Committee, other NGOs and stakeholders for the work that they are doing in addressing these issues.

Mr D Stock (ANC) appreciated the work being done by the organisations. He asked Solidarity Fund about the four streams of NGOs it identified and worked with and where they were located. He asked for the selection criterion for the NGOs they supported. He asked how many of those who applied were approved and how many were declined. From what he has read, 20% of the Solidarity Fund budget went to food and he asked why they are not looking to increase the budget for food.

Ms S Luthuli (EFF, KwaZulu-Natal) asked how much money the Solidarity Fund received in total and what it is used for. She also asked what criteria is used to identify beneficiaries that will receive food parcels and how it has ensured that the food reaches those in need.

Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) said that given the lockdown has been longer than expected, he asked for an indication on the resources available to continue serving the country. He asked how the organisations ensure that the relief reaches everyone without some people repeatedly benefiting from different organisations. Food has nothing to do with whether people "qualify" as people need food and he asked how the organisations ensure those in need get food.

Ms B Masango (DA) noted the Solidarity Fund presentation says that 299 500 households were reached. She asked if this translates to food parcels distributed at one point in time. She referenced slide 5 and asked what the numbers in the ward level index mean. She got the impression that there is not an existing formal relationship between the Red Cross and the DSD and asked for this to be clarified. She asked FoodForward how they identified the communities they would reach. She asked if they remained with communities they served in the past, or if they expanded their reach. She asked all the organisations if they have information on how much food is needed in the country.

Ms A Abrahams (DA) thanked the presenters and congratulated Gift of the Givers for acknowledging the local CBOs playing a life-saving role on the ground. She asked all the NGOs why they did not list the extended lockdown as a challenge. The continued lockdown puts a strain on people not being able to earn a living, which puts a strain on the NGO sector to help support them. She asked Gift of the Givers if political muscle has been a hindrance in the coordination and distribution of food relief. She asked what a database would look like to them and if they had any proposals. She asked if Solidarity Fund could re-send slide 5 with greater detail per ward and per province. Red Cross said that there was a food security project proposal made to the Solidarity Fund. She asked if other NGOs have been asked to make proposals. She said she was excited to visit FoodForward as they were doing good work and she asked where Members could access their Ubuntu Bill.

The Chairperson said that issues are welcome to be raised but that the Committee should not try to extract responses from the presenters as the organisations have been asked only to present.

Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) thanked the organisations for their efforts in fighting hunger during this time. She asked what Solidarity Fund’s involvement is in the process of beneficiary identification and if an estimated cost per food parcel was put together. She asked how long they expect food parcels to last per household. She asked if its budget includes transportation costs and if extra staff or personnel were needed to conduct this project and if so, how much of the budget was allocated to this. She asked how much is allocated per voucher and if there are specific stores that beneficiaries are limited to. She asked if at any stage the Solidarity Fund forwarded money in cash to any of the NGOs it works with. She commended the Gift of the Givers presentation and its recommendations and said the Committee should look into them to see if they can be implemented. She noted that Gift of the Givers received 70 000 food parcels from DSD and asked if they were the only parcels they had received or if it was the first batch of parcels received. She noted that Gift of the Givers said it would be distributing parcels until the end of August and if this meant the 70 000 or if there would be more parcels. To the Red Cross, she asked if the proposal to Solidarity Fund could be sent to the Committee and she also requested the Ubuntu Bill be sent to them by Forward SA. She asked Solidarity Fund if it would consider distributing water, particularly in rural areas. She asked if a centralised system can be put in place to ensure there is no duplication of efforts and to avoid chancers trying to make an extra buck out of the crisis.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) noted the need for coordination between civil society organisations and the Departments. The Red Cross Society is the organisation that she has worked with most in the Western Cape and noted how much work they have done in training volunteers who have gone out into communities. It was true that the unsung heroes are the aunties in the communities who know the information about community needs. It is critical that all role players are engaged, particularly CBOs and faith-based organisations as there are three years ahead which are going to be painful on the South African family. It needs to go beyond simply having engagements like this in order to have an impact. She was in the Northern Cape and knew of a 100 families who did not have food. She asked Solidarity Fund how much of the R2.5 billion is going towards food.

Ms L Arries (EFF) said that since the Community Nutrition and Development Centres (CNDCs) cannot distribute food, she asked why these organisations do not support churches, faith-based organisations, CBOs and soup kitchens that currently provide food. She said this support needs to be ward-based in terms of a distribution plan so that everyone receives food. In George there had been no distribution plan, no proper identification of people and no one signed for the receipt of food parcels. She expressed concern whether the parcels really reached the people in need. Finally, she asked the four NGOs to provide a list of CBOs and NGOs that they are working with. She said a big challenge on the ground is that the CNDCs are not CNDCs but soup kitchens.

Ms N Mvana (ANC) commended the good reports given. She asked Solidarity Fund if any complaints about expired food were received about food deliveries and if so, how these were dealt with. She asked how Red Cross experienced a delay in getting results and if there was uniformity across the provinces on how it dealt with various situations during COVID-19. She asked Gift of the Givers what was delivered to the Eastern Cape and where.

Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) thanked the NGO for their presentations. The country has not yet even scraped the surface of the food problem in the country. She asked if the NGOs are keeping databases of families in need to submit to DSD going forward as the pandemic will have far-reaching consequences.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) asked if the Solidarity Fund is operating in all provinces and if not, why. She asked for more information about the vouchers and how voucher beneficiaries are identified. She asked if statistics can be shared on how many vouchers have been distributed per province. FoodForward SA said that it has been operating in six provinces and she asked which these have been. She appreciated Ms Koketso’s recognition of the need for better coordination. She addressed all the presenters saying that if this can be done better, the situation would improve.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) thanked the NGOs for the information given. She is a fan of the work of Gift of the Givers but she is a fan of the work of NGOs in general. Solidarity Fund said that its work is of a short-term nature and asked what the span of its work would be. She asked how short term their short-term is as she would have hoped to see its work increasing and not decreasing in the weeks to come. She was very pleased to hear that the Red Cross sent out volunteers to SASSA pay points to ensure social distancing. This is an challenge the Committee has highlighted and she asked where these volunteers have been working and if there is a possibility of increasing its assistance with this. She asked the NGOs about political interference in food parcel distribution. She asked how they ensure accountability in that the parcels actually reach the correct households. Finally, she asked for their thoughts on food vouchers as they limit who can buy where depending on where people reside, particularly as local shops can charge exorbitant prices.

Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) said that Gift of the Givers identified four provinces in which it was assisting hospitals. It seemed that they might be supporting NGOs that were able to support themselves and asked how these four provinces were chosen.

Ms M Gillion (ANC, Western Cape), Select Committee Chairperson, thanked them for the presentations. She agreed with Ms Sukers that what is happening on the ground is far from ideal despite what the presentations seem to be saying. Faith-based organisations and CBOs are over-burdened. She gave the example of food distributions in the Overberg region where she works. In that region, they are trying to assist the most vulnerable communities by putting up feeding schemes, but sponsors do not want to assist faith-based organisations and CBOs and sponsorship is running dry. None of the NGOs who presented, apart from the Red Cross which works in a limited capacity, have assisted this region. She asked the Deputy Minister to come to the rural areas and support feeding schemes throughout the country. She agreed with the concern raised by Gift of the Givers about the new type of indigent people. She noted that there were areas in the Western Cape that did not receive food parcels because riots broke out. She asked for an update from Solidarity Fund about increasing the 20% of the budget allocated to food security.

The Chairperson asked for the NGOs to respond for not more than 5 minutes each. He also asked the Department to raise issues only relating to the NGOs, which he would not normally do.

Ministry and Department of Social Development comments on NPO participation
Minister Lindiwe Zulu asked each presenter to present in two minutes but said that it was unfair for the Department to be squashed by this time limit.

Mr Linton Mchunu, Acting DSD Director General, welcomed the presentations by the NGOs and the work they do in contributing to food security. The DSD service delivery model has always been to partner with NGOs, NPOs and co-operatives in realising their programmes on the ground. This is in line with the DSD policy position to align social and economic policy by aiming to empower individuals so that they can contribute to the economy. DSD provides about R7.9 billion per annum to the sector through NPOs. This is done through youth, older persons, HIV and other NPOs. DSD welcomed the approach of the Committee in bringing its partners together so that they can work together to improve the quality of life of people

Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, said that she would like to highlight some of the challenges faced since the large NPOs were presenting. Major challenges include coordination as there is a lot of duplication with the same beneficiaries benefiting from the assistance of several NPOs. Secondly, there was the matter of accountability – when DSD asks NPOs to be registered with the Department and to be compliant with the NPO Act then NPOs often complain that DSD is impeding their effective operation. A further challenge is that of due diligence, where big NGOs say that they are compliant about submitting their financial statements to DSD but they do not.

The Chairperson said that the Minister can take about four minutes.

Minister Lindiwe Zulu thanked the Committee and the NGOs for their contributions and said that she knows that smaller NGOs would love to have this kind of opportunity as everyone is important. At the centre of all their efforts is to improve the well-being of every individual, with a special focus on the most vulnerable. All stakeholders need to work together to ensure that the citizen of South Africa fulfil their potential. Social Development is more than just the delivering of food parcels. She referenced the New Brunswick province of Canada's description: "Social development is about improving the well-being of every individual in society so they can reach their full potential. The success of society is linked to the well-being of each and every citizen. Social development means investing in people. It requires the removal of barriers so that all citizens can journey toward their dreams with confidence and dignity. It is about refusing to accept that people who live in poverty will always be poor. It is about helping people so they can move forward on their path to self-sufficiency."

She expressed the hope that one day the DSD will no longer need to provide food parcels to anyone because the people of the country are no longer reliant on the government for their livelihoods. It is the Department’s responsibility to remove barriers and to ensure that the people are able to take care of themselves. DSD interventions together with NGOs should be empowering ones and social security systems should be improved in their work together. This has to do with connecting the DSD with the economy, health and education so that ultimately, people are empowered.

Minister Zulu commented on the noise of those saying the DSD is stopping the distribution of food. DSD is not stopping anyone from doing so, but the country is under the strain of COVID-19 and it is important for everyone to stick to the protocols pertaining to COVID-19. Distribution must be structured and it is very important for NGOs to work very closely with DSD as it is not in competition with anyone. DSD would like for everyone to be given dignity when all is said and done.

The Chairperson asked for the NGOs to respond Members' questions briefly.

FoodForward SA response
Mr Du Plessis replied that beneficiary organisations are identified in two ways. Firstly, by online applications which FoodForward SA uses to put them on Google Maps in order to plot areas where they already assist and to ensure that there is no duplication. Secondly, if it finds there are NGOs making an impact in their communities and those NGOs want to use food as an incentive for their activities, then FoodForward SA will approach them.

Their reach has been expanded. Before COVID-19 it was supporting 670 beneficiary organisations. It is currently supporting just over 1 005 organisations and it expects that in the next few months FoodForward SA should be supporting close to 1 500 organisations.

The Ubuntu Bill promotes the donation of surplus food by food donors to organisations like FoodForward SA who then distribute it under certain conditions. He would send the Bill to the Committee Secretary and welcomed Committee members to come and visit its premises.

It currently operates in six provinces: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape. In the next few months, it is moving into Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West.

Solidarity Fund response
Ms Galombik replied that the Fund's mandate is to prevent and address healthcare challenges. A fourth aim is to serve households impacted by COVID-19. There may be ongoing areas where value can be attempted to be added to address food security, however she did not think that the board would think addressing food security as the primary work of the Fund.

The Fund approached over 200 large scale NGOs and went through a process of selecting those who could achieve national reach with the speed and efficiency required. These NGOs in turn had relationships with certain CBOs.

Food parcels were designed to support households for two to four weeks depending on the size of the household and were designed to be emergency relief rather than to be a nutritious and sustainable food solution.

Ms Wendy Tlou added that the Fund is almost complete in discussing food relief. Discussions are in place about the second phase which will likely consist of a combination of food vouchers and food parcels. The aim is to work with local, provincial and national bodies to ensure that relief is reaching the right people.

Gift of the Givers response
Mr Kazi clarified that it distributed 70 000 food parcels with DSD and not from DSD. There needs to be more liberal thinking about how NGOs with constrained funding continue into the future. This pandemic will require a national effort and will require a complete buy-in by all South Africans as this is a national crisis and not a local crisis. There are other issues. He was sad to hear about gaps in the Northern Cape and replied that he would look into this right away to correct it.

Red Cross response
Ms Koketso noted that ties with provinces are not equal in strength and work is being done to improve this. Duplication occurs at times when organisations are not closely linked to government. If it were to receive funding, it would be able to train more volunteers than the 1 000 currently spread throughout the country. They are partners of the UNDP and Red Cross will be carrying out a rapid assessment of the needs of the communities to see how it can build the resilience of communities and build food security. The findings of the assessment will inform it to see how it can support communities in becoming self-reliant. The current model is not sustainable and unfortunately COVID-19 is an animal that is new to everybody. The focus now is on sustainability, and improved water, sanitation and food security

Chairperson concluding remarks about NGOs
Before closing this chapter, Chairperson Gungubele felt it was important to highlight that adhering to lockdown protocols is not in dispute. However, there is a strong case for all efforts to avoid double dipping. Additionally, there are concerns about the state of CBOs and the difficulties they are facing. He emphasised that if need be, it should not be difficult for CBOs to write to the Committee, as they have a strong case. There was no dispute on the need for safety when this work is done and that the work should be done without undermining the dignity of its recipients. He quickly asked if it would not be possible to find some kind of food item which is multi-nutritional and is easily spread across the country. The need for collaboration is clear. The distribution of hot food is not in issue and he did not hear any NGO say that they faced any challenge in this regard. He asked if DSD could reduce its 15 minute briefing to 10 minutes.

The Minister noted that the DSD's time continues to be cut short.

The Chairperson said that it was not his intention to do this but that there are visitors who are not usually in the meeting towards whom courtesy needs to be extended. As a result, the Committee is behind schedule. These were not the normal circumstances and he said it was not his intention to limit the Department but asked that they respond.

DSD on its supervision of food distribution, psychosocial support and GBV during pandemic
Mr Mchunu said that DSD would speak to the monitoring and evaluation methods it uses in the distribution of food through what it calls an ‘augmented CNDC model'. They would discuss what the actual CNDC model is and then move to the augmented CNDC model which had to be considered with the advent of COVID-19.

Mr Peter Netshipale, DSD Deputy Director General: Community Development, said that as a policy unit it is important to begin to map the context in which it delivers food, especially after having listened to the NGOs. As they deal with this work, they have evidence of high incidence of food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. The total number of people who have severely inadequate access to food is 13.6 million people. It is about 23.8% of the population. This is the target of the DSD intervention at face value. Hotspot areas needing this intervention are situated in the North West, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. In cities, the informal areas have highly inadequate access to food as people are flocking to the cities.

Food distribution model
Provincial food distribution centres feed people a plate of food a day in all the CNDCs. Due to COVID-19, movement was limited, therefore it has moved to feeding people using food parcels. NPOs are used as implementing agents of their CNDC-based programmes and they continue to distribute food parcels targeted at the beneficiaries of feeding programmes and households with no income. If households are new, they are screened.

Food relief mechanisms
Due to the need to limit gatherings and the closure of CNDC-based feeding programmes in response to COVID-19, the DSD has opted for social relief of distress (SRD), food parcels, homeless shelters, the COVID-19 grant and the exploration of food vouchers. There have been challenges that prompted the directives being drawn up to feed people without the need for queuing by ensuring parcels are delivered to their homes. A major focus is ensuring the dignity of beneficiaries by delivering parcels through knock and drops, thus ensuring that people do not have to queue for food. In this way DSD can collect data about who has received food. There needs to be accountability and coordination is needed as the DSD and NGOs work together in partnership.

Graphic representation of food needs
Standardised food parcels must include starch, protein and vegetables, seasoning and owing to COVID-19, soap and hygiene needs must be included. A person must have 200g of starch and 55g of protein a day at a minimum. Due to the need to reach more people, DSD proposes that food parcels should be shrunk slightly. The graphs indicates the distribution of parcels per provinces. As of the 25 May over 3.1 million people have received food on the assumption that households have on average four people living in them per Statistics South Africa average.

Monitoring and Evaluation of Food distribution
DSD has put a system in place to monitor all evaluations in the sector. A special impact dashboard has been developed. DSD has to respond centrally as a Department, including other departments. All issues are reported and monitored centrally including the number of food parcels distributed, the number of applications for assistance, cash transfers made, and cases of gender-based violence.

DSD has officials at district level. There are volunteers who verify the numbers of parcels and the parcels distributed. Statistics indicate a high demand for food parcels. There needs to be more coordination with the private sector and civil society about food parcels. DSD is working with embassies to discuss the exclusion of foreign nationals.

Digital monitoring system
A rigorous system needs to be sourced and the DSD is working on where, when and how this will be done.

Ms Busisiwe Memela-Khambula, SASSA CEO, defined what social relief of distress means and said that this is intended to be a temporary means of social assistance that ensures immediate response to a crisis situation. It may be issued in various forms such as food, food parcels, vouchers. blankets and in specific instances school uniforms. The SRD grant of R350 is an extension to existing means of SRD.

Assessment of need
This assessment is done in line with legislative provisions. It uses a development approach when it provides SRD. It tries to use local support so that it can impact on economic investments and stimulate the economy. When it provides uniforms to children, it utilises cooperatives to make uniforms. The budget allocation has varied over the years between R407 million and R500 million per year. SASSA has issued 87 590 food parcels which have been distributed; another 10 000 are on order so far. These will continue to be distributed to those who apply until the SRD R350 grant kicks in, at which point these parcels will stop.

Disaster - immediate relief
She thought it was key to highlight the difference between the....

The Chairperson interjected and asked for an update on the COVID-19 interventions

The Acting DG, Mr Linton Mchunu, said that COVID-19 is teaching the DSD to appreciate the capacity of the state. It will have to employ more social workers, caregivers, youth care workers and community development practitioners within the context of the District Development Model (DDM). He noted that Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) and partial care centres continue to remain closed during this time. For ECDs, it is working on a readiness plan with NGOs, however the majority of ECDs are not ready to re-open but it thinks the plan will be ready very soon. Psychosocial support continues to be provided for through counselling at all centres. It has employed more social workers and is looking at employing another 1 200 social workers through the Council for Social Service Professions, who will be brought on as interns.

Lessons from COVID-19 have also exposed a need to strengthen communications, especially on a variety of media platforms so that it can reach all people in all places, including rural areas and townships. It has increasingly realised the need to strengthen its partnerships with social partners. The meeting with NGOs was useful because it would assist the Department in the collection of data between government and the work of its partners. Another critical lesson is intergovernmental coordination throughout all three spheres – it is seeing a need to improve the manner in which it works with provinces, municipalities and agencies.

COVID-19 Grant
The SASSA CEO said that there were a number of measures announced by the President which included an addition to the current grants which the DSD has besides the R350 special grant. The sum delivered for children in May was R9.4 billion. For June it will be R9.2 billion as the amount reduced to R500 per caregiver instead of R300 per child.

The Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant involves an application process and thereafter the consolidation of data before making disbursements. Disbursements have now begun to be distributed through EFTs which are effectively money transfers or credited directly to people’s phones. Where people are unbanked, grants will be distributed through the Post Office. The master record indicates that 13 million applications were received. Some of these were duplications and some were inquiries. After cleaning up the initial data set, 6.5 million applications have been received. It has done internal verification so far on 3.5 million applications to check if the applicant is already receiving assistance in the form of a SASSA grant, UIF or NSFAS stipend. Of the 3.5 million received by 25 May, 1 597 127 have been denied as they receive assistance through other programmes. It is finding that about 50% of people do not qualify. The numbers have improved this week as the number of approved people is 666 000 and SASSA is awaiting their banking details to pay them. SARS has still to verify 1.2 million. 37 777 have had the payment processed and another 64 930 have been submitted for payment. The processed payments were done at the beginning of the week. The CEO believes that by the end of the coming weekend, it will have managed to complete 100 000 payments and received feedback from people who gave incomplete information which it requires.

The Acting DG said that DSD is exploring the transition from food parcels to vouchers. Food parcels can be a logistical nightmare and limits the choice which recipients have and is very labour intensive. The voucher system is quicker, easier to monitor and create data sets on and provides recipients more choice. Most importantly, it provides positive spinoffs for local economic development as money is circulated in those communities.

The Chairperson said the meeting is living on borrowed time. He asked that Members not to take more than two minutes each and asked several times if they were in agreement, to which the Committee agreed.

Mr Stock asked what is happening to those who applied for grants three weeks or a month ago and have not yet been approved or received payments. He asked what is happening to beneficiaries who did not have internet access and cannot apply for the SRD grant. Since the month of May has already passed, he asked if this means that DSD would be providing retrospective May payments for those beneficiaries, or if they would only be paid for June onwards.

Ms Masango asked SASSA to send a picture of the message being sent out after an special grant application has been approved so Committee members know what to tell people when they ask. Although DSD continually referred to coordination with the NGO sector, the reality on the ground is proving different. She said was deeply saddened to hear the Minister calling the genuine concerns of NGOs and CBOs on the ground as ‘noise’ when they are asking for assistance. She asked if this will be resolved at any point. At the same time, she is very encouraged by the Acting Gauteng MEC for Social Development decision to withdraw the guidelines on food donations and distribution by NGOs in the province. She pleaded with the Minister and Department not to call NGO concerns noise, but rather to work with them.

Ms Arries said she was concerned as every week the SASSA CEO comes with different responses. Last week in the Portfolio Committee she said that the SASSA special grant would be paid on a weekly basis. She asked if SASSA has started making payments and if it is really equipped to make the payments. SASSA is still functioning with limited workers. In the Eastern Cape, only one third of SASSA staff is currently at work and they only see fifty people a day. People are sleeping outside in order to access assistance and they are in grave risk when doing so. She asked why SASSA offices are not fully functional and why they cannot work in better shifts as people can fall prey to violence or fall sick whilst sleeping outside of the offices

Ms Abrahams asked when DSD will issue the social development directives for public participation and where the funds will come from for implementing these directives. Some of the ECD sector is ready to open and she has read many in-depth notes and proposals to that effect. Earlier this year they had a presentation on the effects of stunting and the importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life. She expressed concern for children as people go back to work, when parents can neither leave their children alone nor forfeit their jobs. She fears that if they wait for Lockdown Level 1, there will be no ECD sector to go back to and they will have unravelled all the work spent on getting ECDs registered and compliant. This will lead to new ECDs popping up that will be unregistered. She asked if there has been a national directive sent out for subsidised ECDs to still have their kitchens open if they are still receiving a subsidy for the ECD. She asked the DDG for clarity on the knock and drop. She asked if DSD expects NGOs to carry 300 plus containers and physically go to each house and knock and drop. She noted the example of one foundation that is bringing people out into courtyards, lining them up while adhering to social distancing and giving them a food parcel. She asked how people are to know they have received a government issued food parcel. Finally, she has been asked if people may still cook a 100-litre pot and distribute food to people or if they will be fined.

Ms Ngwenya said that she was disappointed not to hear a report on GBV and asked that a detailed report be given at the next meeting. She asked for a detailed report on compliance. She asked SASSA how many people have been paid out of the 3.5 million applications. She asked what SASSA is doing for those who are struggling to complete their applications. She asked if incomplete applications are due to people being unable to complete their applications or if people have stopped applying.

Ms Sukers said that in the Northern Cape the food relief budget was depleted which is why they are struggling to relieve the 100 families that remain. Of the NGOs who presented today, she asked how many of them are receiving funding from DSD. One of the biggest challenges faced on the ground is the fact that people do not know how to find aid and how to access aid. She asked how organisations such as churches can gain support from DSD on the food aid programmes they are having for communities. A serious issue needing to be highlighted was the need for a bigger basket as a long-term strategy to ensure food security. The UIF payments to people have been minimal, therefore although they are listed as people receiving assistance, they are still suffering because they do not have an income. Churches, NGOs and the Department should explain how they intend to work together to develop new strategies aside from the regulatory framework that they have explained.

Ms van der Merwe said that the duplication of food parcels is a big concern. Mechanisms need to be strengthened as some families are receiving several parcels. She asked what is happening with assisting undocumented migrants and if work has been done on this between DSD and Home Affairs. She asked if embassies have come forward to offer support and what kind of support is being offered. She asked if the monitoring and evaluation of food parcels is as effective as presented. She asked for a detailed report on those who have abused the process for political purposes and how DSD has reported them to the relevant authorities to be held to account. She asked if anyone has been held to account for abuse. She asked for a timeline for the move from food parcels to vouchers as it is a better option and it should be prioritised. On the SRD grant, she asked how many people were unsuccessful because they were receiving assistance elsewhere; and how many did not have the necessary documentation. She asked when the SASSA offices re-open, if provision has been made for receiving SRD grant applications in person for South Africans who do not have access to data.

Ms T Breedt (FF+) said that there are a lot of challenges about day-care centres as relatives are not able to look after children when families and parents are at work. She asked if SASSA is equipped to contacting the 3.5 million people to verify their banking details for the , particularly as the process seems to be hitting roadblocks at the stage of entering their banking details for the R350 SRD grant. She asked that local SASSA offices be looked at to take away stress from the system.

Ms Bilankulu asked for clarity if DSD has a clear target relating to women empowerment, GBV, youth and people living with disabilities whilst addressing planning, monitoring and evaluation in the Department.

Ms Gillion asked if voucher could be distributed in areas where food parcels cannot be delivered due to riots and other factors. She was deeply concerned about the situation at the SASSA offices and asked if another form of assistance cannot be created for the elderly and the vulnerable who sit outside of SASSA all night. She asked for a breakdown on the provision of the R350 SRD grant and why people are being disqualified from it

SASSA / DSD response
The SASSA CEO replied that Alert Level 4 only allowed a third of the staff to be brought back. However, now that we are entering Level 3, there would be more staff available. It is also looking into the making of appointments so that people know they will not lose their place in the queue.

She said in the medium term SASSA is trying to ensure that people can apply for grants electronically, for example, the child support grant, which can be linked to the Home Affairs system so that people can do it online and not have to come to its offices.

Payments of the special grant of R350 are not made once a month as with other grants. As people apply, they are paid. It is a completely different system, so follow up is difficult but it makes it possible to make payments continually. NGOs will be assisting those without technology to apply for grants.

The food distribution is guided by the Disaster Management Act. The knock and drop approach of food parcel distribution has been designed to limit contact between people. Food distribution takes place everywhere.

On undocumented migrants, DSD is working with international organisations to address this as many migrants may think the police will be set upon them if the DSD invites them to come.

Mr Mchunu, Acting DSD DG, replied about the need for a coordination approach with NGOs, saying that DSD would continue to work on co-ordinating the distribution of food parcels. He stated that not all ECDs are ready to facilitate receiving children and it is working on bringing them to a state of readiness. He said there is a long-term strategy for food but it needs to be adjusted due to COVID-19. Data collection is important from the side of the Department as well as NGOs.

The Chairperson asked the Minister to close by addressing the ‘noise' concern.

Ministry closing remarks
Minister Lindiwe Zulu stated that the Department is in the midst of a national effort to manage the current situation. South Africa is not the only country going through COVID-19; however, effort needs to be made to support each other as NGOs, NPOs and government on the work that needs to be done with the Committee's constituencies. DSD takes the concerns raised by the Committee very seriously as it needs to be held accountable to it. She noted a need to reengineer some of its systems. Although she did not want to throw everything away as if some systems have not worked, she was cognisant that they needed to serve the people. She added that it was also important to serve people with dignity. When she spoke about the noise, it has absolutely nothing to do with her as a person or the DSD as an institution not respecting people. She said the Department would respond to people according to the way they respond to the Department. She did not want to be political on this platform as it is a platform to respond and explain exactly what the Department does. The fact of the matter is that there are lots of people who are doing their best to work with the DSD and it would continue to work with those organisations. However, that those who want to treat the DSD as if they are useless bunch of people who are not doing their work, would not be taken kindly to. She would not be apologetic to those who are not helping the DSD in the process.

DSD has a social assistance programme that is generally applauded but it is weakened now by the challenges being faced during COVID-19. The Department is to respond in the short and long-term without losing sight of the fact that it has a Strategic and Annual Performance Plans that are adopted. As a Department, it needs to look to the reprioritisation of those plans, particularly as the first quarter of 2020 is gone and the DSD has not been able to implement many of the things it intended to do. DSD needs to be held accountable about the adjustments that need to be made to respond to the current situation. These adjustments will be based on the questions that Members have asked here.

On the withdrawal of the Gauteng MEC for Social Development directives, she said that DSD normally waits for regulations to be concluded through COGTA, and it had not issued any directives as it has been waiting for the finalisation of regulations, which has now been done. It will address its own directives. The Minister has a serious problem with DSD being taken to court for things it had not done. Gauteng should have been the first to be taken to court without bringing DSD into the matter because in the public eye, it has now created an unfair situation where it was being said that DSD is stopping people from distributing food when it did not. However, the Minister said that people are not guinea pigs. That food needs to be proper and as nutritional as possible. People need to be respected and given the dignity they deserve.

Chairperson's comments
Chairperson Gungubele said that the state will always be accountable to the people of South Africa unconditionally as this is a constitutional requirement. Secondly, the CBOs have been raised extensively throughout the meeting. He requested that the Department which has about 235 Community Nutrition Development Centres, use those Centres to engage with CBOs at those levels and in the next meeting come and give the Committee a report. What tends to happen is a fight between government and intermediaries and not the CBOs exactly. He said it was important for DSD to take the initiative and have discussions in those localities with CBOs, including faith-based organisations, so that when they meet again, more of a plan on food security can be presented. GBV is an item in the next meeting. Finally, the Committee should not discuss directives that are not in place. Safety and dignity concerns will always be a priority.

Foster Care Progress Report to the Court
Chairperson Gungubele said that there was not enough time for a report on the North Gauteng High Court decision that a progress report be filed every three months to the court and the applicant. He asked the DG or the Minister to quickly address this.

The Minister clarified the question and asked the DG to respond.

The Acting DG replied that the reports have been accordingly submitted.

In reply to Ms Sukers asking if this concern was linked to the letter sent to Cabinet by the Committee last week, the Chairperson said that no such letter was sent to Cabinet. Ms Sukers said that she received an info alert saying that the Chairperson had requested the Amendment Bill be fast-tracked through Parliament.

The Chairperson asked for that matter to be dealt with differently and for the matters to be separated. That matter is in hand. He thought that progress report to the court matter could have been dealt with here but the Committee was running out of time. What was being spoken of here is the complaint by the applicant about the Department meeting the agreement that during the extension it does regular reports which the Department must give to court. The applicant was saying these were not being adhered to.

Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu said that there are two issues she would like to separate, the first being compliance with the Committee on foster care concerns. The Acting DG has confirmed the Department’s compliance. The second issue is the court order. The passing of the amendment to the Children’s Act will enable the DSD to implement what it calls the kinship grant.

The Minister said that some of DSD documents are leaked when they are still under discussion and this then causes a mess. She pleaded that the DSD interactions with the Committee not be based on leaked documents. There are formal procedures within which to access information. She would not try and have information leaked from the Committee as she respects its work. However if DSD and the Committee are to work well together and continue respecting each other, then it pains her when information relied on by the Committee is leaked information. She asked that information be sought officially and openly if it is needed. DSD will give them the information it sees fit to give them, particularly when it has not completed its processes.

Ms Sukers agreed with the Minister and said that when they dealt with food distribution, it is a particularly emotive issue, particularly from her own experience. She wanted to take what the Minister said on board. She appreciated the fact that, although the Committee highlights gaps, the reality is that the work of the DSD involves human beings who are working long hours under tremendous stress. If that has not come across, she sincerely apologised as the gaps on the ground affect them all.

The Chairperson interjected and said addressing these matters is not a once off event. He said he loved them all and declared the meeting closed.



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