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Muslim NGOs overwhelmed by the level of hunger during lockdown

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Muslim humanitarian and relief NGO’s are buckling under the pressure as calls mount for food distribution during the national lockdown. The extended lockdown has placed a huge economic burden on impoverished households in the Western Cape and breadwinners are penniless due to the lack of employment. This has resulted in many hungry families and communities desperate for food assistance.

Fears over food security heightened this week as clashes erupted in Tafelsig, after residents complained over a lack of food parcels. Unrest spilled over into other areas such as Manenberg and Sherwood Park, where groups of youth went on a looting spree at some stores – with residents saying the display of such criminal behaviour is a threat to the real challenges of hunger in the community.
Several NGO’s who VOC News spoke to this week reported that they have been flooded with calls for assistance, but with the state of donor fatigue, money is trickling in.

The Mustadafin Foundation said this week’s protests shows that communities are on the verge of imploding due to the food crisis. Director Gaironesa Johnstone said the need within communities is overwhelming and the problems that existed prior to the coronavirus pandemic, would simply compound poverty.

“There are a lot of issues other than the coronavirus that people have been dealing with. COVID-19 has just added an extra burden on the community,” said Johnstone.

“We are inundated with calls because the need for people is great. The frustration is immense.”

“We had a young girl with leukaemia walking a far distance in Belhar because she hadn’t eaten in three days. The stories are real…and the pain is real.”

Four poverty relief organisations, SANZAF, Islamic Relief, Mustadafin Foundation and Red Cross have permits from the government to conduct poverty relief projects during the lockdown. The foundation has been on duty 24/7 since the start of the lockdown working in collaboration with other community organisations to see to the needs of the poor. Mustadafin has worked in areas such as Parkwood, Tafelsig, Hanover Park, Vygieskraal, Belhar, Delft, New Horizons, Valhalla Park, Sherwood Park, Lavender Hill, New Horizons, Kewtown, Athlone, Pooke’s Se Bos and Bridgetown.

“Most of the areas we have seen to are those calling us for assistance. If we can and we have, then we will assist. We are restrained and we can only give what we have,” Johnstone stressed.

At present, Mustadafin is not able to do its food distributions daily as it depends on the donations from the broader public.

“We have a team of 35 staff in Tafelsig who cook food and creates awareness in the community. They feed 1500 children and during the lockdown, they had to come up with ways to maintain the learning of these kids. They support the life of the child, but they also support the families of these kids. But they are challenged as we do not have food parcels every day. Our supply has come to an end…”

But Johnstone is hopeful, as she believes in the spirit of Ubuntu.

“One minute we have nothing, and the next, we are packing 1000 parcels. Then we have nothing and then we get vegetables. Again we have nothing, and before you know it, we have cooked food. So everything is through the takdeer of Allah SWT.”


The South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) kickstarted its lockdown operations with food parcels but due to limitations on zakah, it had to intensify its call for sadaqah contributions. The relief agency has distributed 7500 parcels in various areas through local imams and church groups.  SANZF is operating from one office, as all masajid, where their mobile offices are based, are closed.

“SANZAF cannot see to everyone so we are working through existing groups. The need is greater than what we can provide,” said Shafiek Barendse, regional manager for SANZAF Western Cape.

Barendse believes the need for cooperation in the NGO sector is essential during this time, so that impoverished residents are not left out in the cold.

“We’ve spoken to other NGOS to tell us who they distribute to, so we can check our database for reference. We’ve had instances where our officers went to a specific house and the beneficiary doesn’t live there anymore. This exhausts our energy and resources.”

There is also concern around a shortage of certain items from suppliers, which are necessary for food parcels.

“During the lockdown, industries are not operating as optimally so food items are a challenge. For example, we have found there is a shortage of sugar and peanut butter. As long as the lockdown continues, there will be shortages as products are not coming into the country,” he added.


Nakhlistan, which has become famous for their mass Eid cooking, said it has received numerous requests to service Bokmakierrie, Silvertown and Bridgetown. as well other areas on the Cape Flats. The NGO was founded 36 years ago by a group of friends who decided to cook two pots of food for distribution to the needy on that day of Eid-ul-Fitr. Nakhlistan does not provide food parcels, but rather hot meals.

“For example, if we cook for Bokmakierrie, the other side of the area will beg us for assistance. The demand is so great that we really don’t have enough. But Alhamdullilah, we are doing the best we can. We don’t have funds to sustain our operation and we do everything through our own pockets,” said director Shukoor Mowzer.

If you need assistance or if you can donate to the NGOs, contact:
SANZAF 021 6385108
Mustadafin 021 633 0010 / 60
Nahklistan 083 231 9279

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