Government agrees to drop ‘peanut butter ban’

Government has agreed to withdraw regulations which barred NGOs from handing out peanut butter sandwiches to the needy.

Some three weeks after non-profit organisation Cradle of Hope was barred from handing out peanut butter sandwiches to those in need during the Covid-19 state of disaster, the Krugersdorp charity was this week able to resume its work.

This after the provincial Department of Social Development withdrew a set of guidelines in terms of which NGOs could only distribute food parcels over this period.

Last month, Cradle of Hope approached the North Gauteng High Court with an urgent application to have the guidelines declared unconstitutional and set aside.

The organisation’s chief executive, Melodie van Brakel, said in the court papers that she and her team had been providing local children and adults in need with fresh peanut butter sandwiches and – when available – fruit, for the past three years. When the lockdown was first announced, she said, they immediately began implementing the necessary measures outlined in the accompanying regulations. But last month, when she contacted the department for help securing the police’s assistance with crowd control, Van Brakel said she was “without rhyme or reason, rudely informed that the distribution of sandwiches is not allowed”.

The case was set down to be heard on Tuesday, but it has now been struck from the roll.

The parties reached a settlement agreement late last week, with the department agreeing to cover the legal costs Cradle of Hope had incurred in the interim.

The department said in a subsequent statement that the decision to withdraw the guidelines followed “an extensive engagement with the Premier’s Office on challenges raised by other organisations who found the guidelines difficult to use for distribution of food to our communities”.

“Acting MEC Panyaza Lesufi welcomes and acknowledges the work done by donors who continue to donate food parcels across province,” the statement read.

Sharon Lee, who is the fundraiser at Cradle of Hope, said yesterday that the organisation was delighted with the outcome.

“We are ecstatic about this,” she said, “We’re so happy we can feed the community again. That’s what this was all about”.

Lee said that on Monday staff and volunteers fed around 600 people.

“It was heartwarming to see how appreciative they all were,” she said, “We also received WhatsApp messages from many members of the community expressing their gratitude”.

An emotional post on Cradle of Hope’s Facebook page read:

“After weeks of not being able to feed these vulnerable, desperate and hungry adults and children, today brought about great gratitude and many of us were literally in tears as the recipients received their first decent food in almost three weeks. Some of the people came back for more food, four times. That is how hungry they were. Absolutely heart-breaking to see”.

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