Villagers fight over food

Villagers fight over food

BEREA – VILLAGERS in Marabeng are up in arms against the Berea district Disaster Management Authority (DMA) for using what they claim is a “wrong criteria” to select beneficiaries for food aid. The DMA is accused of bypassing the Marabeng Chief Seeiso Majara and Local Government Councillor ’Mathabiso Lebea in selecting those who should receive help.
Instead, they say, DMA officials are favouring their friends, relatives and cronies. Marabeng residents who spoke to thepost said the village has now split into two factions between those who support the DMA and those who take sides with the chief and the councillor.

The residents who are against the DMA want the chief and the councillor to intervene to restart the selection process which they say was biased.  Their gripe is that most of the families receiving the aid are already “well off” while “many of us who are really struggling are left out”. Those who were selected were given 10kg rice and M200 per person. This means that a family of five people would get 50kg rice and M1 000 cash.The programme will run for six months, from December last year to May.The villagers complain that the DMA officials told them to form groups to nominate the names of the village’s poor and vulnerable people for food and cash aid. They said the authority did this without involving the chief and the councillor, two people they claim know the families in the village better. They further said DMA officials never visited the nominated people to verify if they were in need of the aid. The villagers also complained that DMA officials never engaged local support groups that look after the sick and the elderly.

They also said the DMA officials could have used the churches because the clergy know their church members well and can easily identify those in desperate need of the aid.
’Mathabo Liphoto, 70, said she was told at a public gathering where DMA officials were managing the selection process that she was not qualified to receive food aid because she was not old enough to receive a government pension. “When the village was registered I had not yet reached 70 years,” Liphoto said, adding: “I ended up leaving because I realised that I was not going to be registered.” She said the DMA officials said they did not need to involve the chief or the local councillor in the selection process.“We have always worked with the chief and the councillor because they are the ones who know everybody in this village and they know our needs as individuals,” Liphoto said. “Sidestepping them was the gravest mistake they did and now their plan, even if it was good, is working against the poor and it is benefitting the rich,” she said.

Liphoto said some villagers whom she knew that they were working and were receiving monthly salaries were called to Teya-Teyaneng (TY) to receive food aid just before Christmas.
“To our shock the very same people, all the people in the list who went to TY to receive food and cash, were called again yesterday (last Wednesday) and they came back with food parcels and cash,” she said. “This government office that manages these donations is not ashamed to call them again despite that there are many poor ones in the village who struggle to put food on the table every day.”The villagers said the DMA had promised that selected beneficiaries would take turns to receive the donations but that has changed because the same people who got food before Christmas have received more food this month. ’Manthati Makobane, 53, said she had asked her sister-in-law to register her name because she had gone to a funeral when the DMA people came.“I had hope that I would be called but I realised that I was not registered,” she said.“The registration was done under the watchful eyes of these people, I was told, and the villagers were told to nominate names of people who are orphans, aged and needy but I was not nominated despite that I am struggling to feed my family,” Makobane said.

“I understand that they view me as not so much in need although I am really in need of food because nobody is employed in my family,” she said.
“However, I am left wondering when I see people who own taxis, working and salaried married couples appearing on the list of the vulnerable and needy who are receiving food parcels and cash.”Makobane said she does not have a field to grow food and her family has no other reliable source of food apart from her small garden.
She said even the government’s poverty reduction programme which provides temporary jobs of roads maintenance or tree planting does not give much help.
In this programme, a worker is paid M1 000 a month but unfortunately one may get employed once after 36 months, which means such one will be employed for just a month in three years.

“No one can depend on fato-fato (poverty reduction temporary employment). It is hurting to see people who do not even need fato-fato jobs because they have jobs that pay them every month but they are getting assistance from the government when we do not get it,” Makobane said.“We see people who own cars and some have built beautiful big houses, which show that they are able to feed themselves, but they are receiving donations,” she said.’Matlaleng Leeto, 67, who has diabetes said she was so desperate for the food aid that she nominated herself after she had spent the whole day trying to get her name on the list. “I was told that I couldn’t nominate myself, I had to wait for someone to nominate me,” Leeto said.“I waited until I gave up and went to my home. Diabetic as I am, I was so hungry that I was even trembling. I had left home having eaten only soft porridge because I did not have enough mealie-meal on that day.”

Leeto said her family of five members depends on her son “who earns so little that we barely survive”.“However, it is painful to see my struggling neighbours not getting this aid but those who can afford to live without these donations are the ones benefitting.”Liphoto said she went to the chief to ask if the registration could be reversed but “the chief told me that he was bluntly told not to be involved”. At least over 23 villagers have since signed a petition asking the authority to reverse the selection. Chief Seeiso Leshoboro Majara told this paper that he was taken aback when his helper reported to him that his office had been instructed not to be involved in selecting the beneficiaries. “We were not involved even in calling for the public gathering. I cannot specifically say who called it but my helpers attended it so that they could hear and see what was happening,” Chief Majara said. “We knew that the DMA would come but we did not know the exact date until they came unexpectedly and I was not present in the village, my helper who is always in the office was there and he told me this disturbing thing.” “I was also told that the councillor was not in attendance, and she later confirmed that she did not know about the public gathering.”The chief said he called the DMA office in Teya-teyaneng after his people complained. “We have to resolve this urgently before the people of Marabeng split and form factions. I don’t want this in my village,” he said.

The councillor, ’Mathabiso Lebea, said she thought it was the chief who had sidestepped her but later learnt that he too knew nothing about the selection. “I went to him asking to see the list of selected people so that I could compare it with the one I had but he did not have it,” Lebea said. “I only learnt from the people that they had been called to TY to receive food but the DMA never said anything to me,” she said. “We also learnt that all councillors in the Kanana ED and the chiefs had been bypassed by the DMA office and we were surprised.” The Berea District Administrator, Motsamai Mokoto who directly supervises the DMA activities in the district, said the procedure is that “the chiefs and councillors are always engaged because they are the ones who know their people better and they know who needs a help and who does not”. “We use the chiefs and councillors to call public gatherings and we confirm the lists with them,” Mokoto said.“It is odd if this procedure was not followed in Marabeng,” he said. Mokoto said even after the gathering of names, the DMA office is duty-bound to visit the nominated people to verify if they are really in need before the list can be finalised. He promised to investigate the matter.

Staff Reporter

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