Thousands of people struggling under South Africa’s tough lockdown waited in snaking queues for food aid for the second time in two weeks on Thursday, highlighting the human cost of the country’s coronavirus restrictions.
Footage by Reuters showed people standing in miles-long queues on a dirt track near the Mooiplaas and Spruit informal settlements on the outskirts of the capital Pretoria.
The Spruit Community Support Forum, a diverse group of religious, charity and community organisations, gave out around 10 000 bags of maize meal, vegetables, face masks, soap and sanitisers.
Charity workers asked people to keep a metre apart, separating men and women into different queues. In late April they distributed 8 000 food parcels in the same place.
Mating Molise, a 31-year-old mother of two, said times were hard. “Things are very tough, I can’t do anything because no one is working,” she said.
Many people from Mooiplaas and Spruit are from nearby southern African countries, meaning they don’t always qualify for government aid, non-governmental organisations say.
Edmore Mhlanga, a 34-year-old from Zimbabwe who worked for a construction company before the coronavirus struck, said: “Life is difficult here at the squatter camp, it’s hunger only.”
Africa’s most industrialised nation has recorded 12 739 cases of the coronavirus and 238 deaths, far fewer than many countries in badly affected continents like Europe, partly because of the tough restrictions in place.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that the lockdown had prevented infections from rising uncontrollably and health facilities from being overwhelmed.
He acknowledged that the restrictions had brought great hardship and said his government would support those in need.