The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Eric Molale is caught between a rock and hard place as all eyes are on him and succumbing to pressure to deal with the crisis besieging the COVID-19 food basket initiative as funds allocated for it are already depleted.
The controversial food aid was allocated P114 million but the minister is shocked that the coffers were exhausted quickly while distribution of food packages still lags behind. Molale is said to have ordered investigations into dealings by some councils over their processes when handling the food distribution funds owing to allegations of corruption by some politicians. Molale recently sent a warning to councilors not to meddle in Social Workers’ job.
During a joint media briefing with Molale on Thursday, the Coordinator of Covid-19 Food Relief Gabriel Seeletso revealed that food distribution has been tainted by crisis in many councils countrywide.He revealed that the P 114 million pula budget that has been set aside for the programme has been used up, which creates more challenges but said they are assessing the delays. “We anticipated that the money will be enough to cover the process for the next three months. 487 047 households visited by social workers, 371 390 households to be given food parcels and 317 787 households already assisted. We will need more money to continue process,” he said.
The food distribution woes hit hard Tlokweng as the exercise was temporarily suspended earlier this week and council officials could not divulge the details but it emerged that they ran out of supplies. The distribution resumed on Friday but most individuals are yet to receive their first packages while others are getting second round, a move which has caused public outrage.
People residing in Tlokweng as tenants have complained that food priority was given to Batlokwa, therefore reading tribalism as influenced by politicians but authorities denied that. Social Workers have decried that the fights between political leaders and Village Development Committees (VDCs) members for control has led to delays in assessing some of the households.
Minister Molale insisted that the delays in food distribution is linked to many factors such as some public servants unlawfully receiving the packages noting that they will be investigated. He also sent warning to politicians who continue to meddle in the assessment process with others end up caught in allegations of food especially councilors who are in tendering process.
Molale has been blasted by MPs for the crisis, which led to slow distribution of food packages indicating that his approach of letting businesses run by politicians to tender has politicized the process. Defending himself from the onslaught in Parliament recently over letting politicians to bid for tenders they are conflicted, Molale said councilors have declared to him as the minister adding that opposition politicians create an impression that only BDP members benefitted while they also did.