Thousands of hungry residents did not care about breaking lockdown rules as they pushed to get food parcels in Olievenhoutbosch on Saturday after becoming the victims of fake news.
In the community just outside Centurion, Pretoria, thousands were seen queuing and pushing in the hope of receiving food parcels to get them through the Level 4 lockdown. The parcels were being distributed at Walter Sisulu Primary School.
Scores of people, some in masks, seemed to overwhelm the Public Order Police and SA National Defence Force soldiers were called in for back-up.
Some residents had been queuing since Friday night, sleeping on the pavements in the hope of being the first to receive food parcels once dawn broke – due to false information that had been doing the rounds.
According to Gauteng department of social development spokesperson Thabiso Hlongwane, a post on social media claimed the food parcels were nearly finished.
“That is why we had to go there and stop the people from queuing and deal with the issue of social distancing.
“Initially, the distribution of food was done door-to-door, but you find that it’s not only Olievenhoutbosch residents there. There are people who call others from places to come to Olievenhoutbosch to receive food.”
Only residents of extensions 19, 20 and 22 were meant to get food parcels on Saturday night.
Despite the chaos, parcels were handed out by a church and a non-governmental organisation, Mahlasedi Foundation, which collaborated with the department.
The department was now close to reaching their target of feeding 30,000 people in Olievenhoutbosch as about 20,000 residents had already received food parcels.
The parcels included mielie meal, four tins of baked beans, four cans of corned beef, salt and instant porridge.
The department prioritised those who were unemployed, the elderly, those from child-headed households, the disabled and the homeless. So far, the department has fed 220,000 people. This excluded food distributed by non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders, Hlongwane said.
“People must get food for the next coming months and beyond and we want to come up with a strategy of doing better, even beyond the lockdown,” he added.