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HUNGRY RESIDENTS ATTACK NDMA VOLUNTEER

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MBABANE - The old adage ‘a hungry man is an angry man’ rang true for a National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) volunteer, who was verbally attacked by residents of Ezulwini yesterday.


This was during a verification exercise conducted by one of the non-governmental organisations, which were assigned to register people for food aid and cash-based transfers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The verification exercise came after the NDMA paid cash to some beneficiaries last Wednesday. Each household received E700 cash to buy groceries. The exercise was aimed at ensuring that all qualifying beneficiaries received the money.
The beneficiaries were called according to lists to sign against their names and confirm if they received the money.


Names


The residents listened attentively as the volunteers called the names of the qualifying beneficiaries. Trouble began when some residents learnt that their names did not appear on the lists. They asked the volunteers why their names were not appearing on the lists.


“I have been listening to the names of the beneficiaries and looking at the people who qualified for the money. It is disappointing that some of the beneficiaries are not vulnerable like most of us whose names are not on the list. I was born in the area and I know the situation in each and every homestead. Some people are better off than others, but they have benefitted,” said an elderly man. The elderly man alleged that some of the people who benefited were known landlords and civil servants in the area. He also alleged that the money was paid to all households in some families.


Benefited


“Some families have registered more than six households and they have all benefited,” said the elderly man while mentioning one of the homesteads where the entire family benefited.
The attacked volunteer, only identified as Dludlu, angered the residents when he tried to clarify why some of them had missed out. He told the residents, some of whom were visibly angry, that the registration was divided into three phases. Dludlu stated that as far as he was concerned, the cash distribution was not over. He promised the residents that the process was ongoing.  “We will call you to this place during the next phase,” he said.


However, Dludlu’s explanation prompted the residents to seek further clarity. They asked him why landlords and civil servants were given preference over the elderly who lived with orphaned and vulnerable children in the area. The residents stated that according to their understanding, when the registration process started, they were told that the most vulnerable people would be given first preference.  “Does it make sense to give preference to landlords and civil servants and leave out the elderly? Who selected the beneficiaries after the registration?” asked the residents while pointing Dludlu in the eyes. “We disclosed our illnesses with the hope of getting food, but we missed out,” said another resident.


Distances


 The residents felt for the elderly who travelled long distances only to retun home empty-handed.
Dludlu did not have answers to some of the questions except to assure the residents that the exercise was ongoing. Police watched the residents closely as they confronted Dludlu.
Lobamba Indvuna Yenkhundla Bhekisisa Bhembe and Bucopho Menzi Mndzebele, also heard the concerns raised by the residents. Bhembe was also questioned about the selection criteria, as the residents felt that the most vulnerable people were left out. In response, Bhembe said; “There is a lot that went wrong with the registration. We don’t know how the beneficiaries were selected.”


He suggested that an urgent meeting be convened so that the issue could be addressed. Worth noting is that the COVID-19 regulations forbid meetings of more than 20 people during the pandemic. Mndzebele stated that he was also shocked by the outcome of the registration. Asked what happened, he stated that as far as he was concerned, the lists were submitted by caregivers to the NDMA. He said he did not know what happened thereafter.  He stated that while at the Mvutshini Care Point, he observed that some landlords and civil servants benefited while the most vulnerable people missed out. He said when the registration started, it was agreed that the most vulnerable people would be given first preference.


Asked how many people registered for the food aid in the area, Mndzebele said in the population of about 15 000 people, they registered 80 per cent of the people. The 15 000 was a number of people who registered for elections in 2018.
He said the people included the youth who were employed at the local hotels, restaurants and shops.


“Many people were registered because they lost their jobs when government introduced the partial lockdown. Some of the residents are the tenants who were employed at the local hotels, security companies, shops, salons and restaurants. The worse thing is that all these people want answers how they missed out because they are hungry,” he said.


While at the zones, the residents confronted Mdzebele one by one seeking clarity on the ongoing exercise. Most of those who confronted Mndzebele were those  who had not registered at all. They claimed that they were intentionally left out by the caregivers of the area. 

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