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PERILOUS TIMES AS HUNGER SETS IN AT KWALUSENI

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KWALUSENI – Pangs of hunger are driving the densely populated Kwaluseni township residents to sheer desperation. The residents feel that COVID-19 has reduced them to mere scavengers forced them to either fight or succumb to imminent death from hunger.

They are calling on government to intervene immediately to avert an upsurge of a disaster on the same proportions with the novel coronavirus; that of death by hunger.


At worst, residents say hunger is exacerbating sickness and disease and threatens to plunge the community back to its shameful era of being the national hotspot for violent crime.
Kwaluseni is home to communities that work in the country’s industrial town, Matsapha, most of whom are blue collar workers earning below the taxable income of E3 500 per month. They live in one-roomed rented flats known as titimela.


struggle


Eswatini News visited the township this week and met mothers who struggle to feed toddlers and themselves. Some residents walk about in search of green edible weed (imbuya) just to live another day.  Yet others said they were wont to take traditionally made brew (umcombotsi) on empty stomachs.
The residents said their desperation had been worsened by security forces’ tough stance on enforcing the stay at home regulation by which government intends to decrease the spread of the coronavirus.
Gabsile Simelane, who alleged that she took lashes by a sjambok from the security forces, said she felt the government had abandoned them.


situation


“I went to ask for food from a relative and the security forces found me at Eteni and asked me why I was not at home. I explained my situation but they did not listen and gave me three strokes with a sjambok before sending me back home. That day me and my three children ate nothing,” she alleged.
Meanwhile, Mpumelelo Gumedze said he used to sell roasted chicken by the roadside commonly  ‘known as ‘chicken dust’, but due to the COVID-19 regulations, he was forced to close his business.


“I have eaten all the stock that I had because I support three children and their mother. I now wake up in the morning and go to  my local baker, Thwala and ask to help him. He gives me scraps of bread to take home.”


Gumedze also alleged that he was brutally assaulted by the security forces on Monday evening when he went to meet a cousin.
Samkeliso Nkonyane said she was a house maid for a family at Matsapha, but was asked to stay at home without pay.
“My child and I do not have anything to eat because I no longer go to work,” she said.


 She pled with government to distribute food parcels and save her family from dying from hunger.
Hlengiwe Hlatshwako said she earned a living by moving from place to place and doing laundry for people who pay her anything from E60 to E100.


warned


“Now that we have been warned to stay at home, I do not have any source of income and this is worrying me because I have five children whose father has also been told to stay at home. How do we stay indoors with no food to eat? We will die of starvation,’’ she said.
Kwaluseni MP Sibusiso Mabhanisi Dlamini said he had already sent an SOS to the Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini and his Deputy Themba Masuku.


He said he used his personal money to respond to some of the most desperate cries for help until he ran out of resources.
“People were calling me every now and then asking for food. Some were so desperate that they said even if I gave them mealie-meal, they would gladly eat it with water than to struggle under severe hunger,” he said.
The MP said there were three categories of people that lodged complaints with him.


worked


“There are those who work in textile factories in Matsapha who said when the factories closed down, they were only paid for the few days that they had worked for the month of March. They paid rent and then were left with nothing to eat. Then there are the elderly who also received social grants but, due to the fact they are breadwinners, they said the grant was depleted because they were buying food for grandchildren who have not been to school for the past four weeks.”


MP Dlamini said when he was overwhelmed by the calls for food relief, he had decided to raise the issue with government.
He said he was promised that the National Disaster Management Agency would consider the cries for help.
The MP said despite the high density population in his constituency, he was still to receive water tanks for the community to wash hands and avoid spreading the virus.


announcement


A member of the Inner Council, Ford Mazibuko, said he had 15 one-roomed flats to let in his yard, and most tenants went home without paying rent after the announcement of the lockdown.
“Some of them just packed their things and left while others simply went to their parental homes without settling rent. I understand that it is all because of the COVID-19 issues,” he said.


Member of the Community Police Jabulani Dlamini said if the situation persisted, he foresaw a situation whereby children would be robbed of bread when they were sent by parents to the grocery stores.
“If the government can distribute beans and mealie-meal to the people that would be enough. No one would even blame security forces  from assaulting those who loiter around,” he said.

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