A clarion call by the CEO of iSimangaliso, Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini, for partnership in alleviating poverty in communities hard hit by the lockdown due to COVID-19, has reached as far as the Pokwana Royal Council in the Eastern Cape. On Day 106 of South Africa’s lockdown, the Council visited the Nkovukeni Community near Kosi Bay in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, to distribute food parcels to impoverished families who live in the semi-island village of Nkovukeni, under the traditional leadership of Inkosi Tembe.
Driven by the spirit of ubuntu, and the desire to extend a helping hand, the delegation from the Pokwana Royal Council travelled more than 12 hours from Dutshwa, in the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu Natal. There they partnered with Inkosi Tembe, iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and uMhlabuyalingana Municipality to deliver food parcels to 74 households, with an average size of 6 people per household. The economic situation of communities surrounding and living in the Park is dire, with continuously rising food insecurity and poverty. This situation has been worsened by the slowdown of tourism activities due to COVID-19. The area is 98% rural, with high unemployment due to an almost complete lack of industrialisation. “The Pokwana Royal Council felt the urge to extend a helping hand to local communities, after reading about the plight of the Nkovukeni community” said the spokesperson for the Council.
Speaking on behalf of the community, Inkosi Tembe appreciated the initiative of the Pokwana Royal Council, and expressed his desire for the partnership to continue. “When traditional leaders join hands together with other sectors our people benefit, as we have seen here today,” said Inkosi Tembe. Inkosi further thanked the Council for partnering with him in assisting the Nkovukeni community, which he believes has often been neglected due to their geographical isolation.
iSimangaliso commenced with the food parcel distribution programme on the 1 April 2020, as the country went into lockdown. The programme has since grown, and has now been running for three and a half months. Food parcels have been distributed in areas neighbouring the iSimangaliso Wetland Park – from Maphelane in the south of the Park, to Kosi Bay on the boarder of Mozambique. Commenting on the food distribution programme, Mr Bukhosini explained that the programme was supposed to be a one-off initiative. However, it has since been extended over a longer period, and covered many more households than initially envisaged. He expressed his gratitude to the business sector, organisations and individuals who have been good Samaritans, and responded positively to the clarion call for partnership with iSimangaliso on this noble cause. Without them, this would have been an impossible mission.
As part of the food distribution session, the delegation also took the time to educate the community about the coronavirus. South Africa is currently facing a large upsurge of COVID-19 cases, which suggests that the lockdown will continue for some time, in an attempt to slow down the infection rate. Food distribution sessions are therefore also being used as a COVID-19 awareness-raising platform. Communities are taught about the deadly pandemic, and encouraged to comply with government measures to curb the spread of the virus.
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