The portfolio committee on social development has voiced concern on reports that over eight million South Africans are at risk of food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concern was expressed following briefings by the social development department on the implementation of food distribution programmes and preparations for the reopening of early childhood development services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An update on the Special Covid-19 Grant was also provided.
In a statement, the committee chairperson, Mondli Gungubele, said it was “clear that Covid-19 is a huge threat to food security and a large proportion of the population could experience food insecurity as a result of the pandemic”.
“The need to feed our people came out very strong in today’s meeting. If we are supposed to feed 14 million people and we are only able to feed just over five million, then it is a serious problem,” he said.
The department informed the committee that the demand for food far surpasses supply and government’s ability to assist is limited.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) announced its decision to relook at declined COVID-19 grant applications and determine the reasons for rejection.
“The high numbers involved raised questions and SASSA decided that it would be wise to reconsider these before subjecting them to an appeal process, which comes at a cost and resultant delays, given the urgency to pay out the grant during these trying times for poor people impacted negatively by the national shutdown.”
SASSA indicated that an updated Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) database revealed that “85% of the UIF cases which were previously deemed not to be qualifying, actually qualify”.
SASSA confirmed that the cases had been approved and applicants are being informed and asked to submit banking details.
More than two and a half million applicants have already been paid so far from over 3.2 million who applied for the COVID-19 grant.