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NO FOOD RELIEF FOR URBAN AREAS

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MBABANE - Tenants, mostly residing in urban areas, who have suffered consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, should prepare themselves for tough times as they have been excluded from the food relief plan proposed by government.


This was confirmed by National Disaster Management Agency Public Relations Officer Wandile Mavuso in an interview yesterday.
Mavuso was asked to clarify after he made the statement when responding to a concern raised by some callers during a morning radio show yesterday.
Some callers wanted to know if government would consider providing food parcels to tenants, mainly in urban areas, who have been hit hard by the pandemic.


Income


It is understood that some tenants have no source of income after government introduced a partial lockdown as means to minimise the spread of the virus. Some of the partial lockdown regulations temporarily banned people from operating their businesses which were considered high risk. 


These people include vendors who earned their living through selling fruits and vegetables on the streets, car wash employees who earned E10 per car, dry cleaners employees, hair-dressers and salon owners, those employed at cellphone shops, hotels, restaurants and security guards, among others. A study has shown that most of these people are tenants on the outskirts of towns and cities and currently have no other source of income. 


“We will not include tenants in the relief plan. We will not be going to the flats,” Mavuso said, adding that the food relief plan was directed to the people who lived in communities where there were local structures in place.
 He said they would be working hand- in-hand with the local structures such as chiefs, Members of Parliament, tindvuna tetinkhundla, inner council tindvuna, bucopho, and caregivers who knew the people on the ground.
Mavuso said this was to ensure that deserving beneficiaries were indentified. He said the focus would be mainly on the elderly, orphaned and vulnerable children, and those with chronic diseases. He said they had since included those who had temporarily lost income due to the pandemic in the programme. In random interviews, royal kraal authorities said they were ready to identify the most vulnerable people with the help of caregivers. However, some bucopho said there were many needy people in the communities.


Assessment


However, Mavuso did not want to talk much about the next steps after the assessment as the matter was being dealt with by legislators. Recently, MPs rejected the Deputy Prime Minister, Themba Masuku’s proposal to give cash to those in need of food relief.


However, Masuku said he would consult further after the MPs rejected the proposal. There has been much talk about the assessment resulting in some people questioning the criteria and Mavuso was asked to clear the air. In his response, he said the assessment started about a week ago and the agency and its stakeholders had been training officers who would be conducting the assessment. “We have a new assessment that is directed to the COVID-19 pandemic. This assessment is ongoing and we are working with the local structures who know the most vulnerable people in the communities,” he said. 


In an interview with some tenants, they questioned why they were excluded from the relief plan as they served the same government.
“Government has ordered that we stay home during the partial lockdown and we prefer staying at our rented flats so that we do not contract or spread the virus. I think relocating to our homesteads will defeat the purpose of the partial lockdown,” said one of the tenants.
She said government should go back to the drawing board and come up with another strategy. She said tenants were the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic as everything required money at the rented flats.


A member of Ezulwini Inner Council said every liSwati had a chief code. He advised tenants to go back to their homesteads so that they could not miss out on the relief plan proposed by government.
“People should not benefit under the name of another chief. They should be counted and assessed from home,” he said.
The member said permits were ready if the tenants wanted to relocate to their homesteads during the course of the partial lockdown.

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