Food seizure operations waged by unemployed people in some supermarkets in Durban, highlights an important issue which is often taken for granted – that unemployed people have no penny to buy basic household commodities such as food, let alone pay for basic services. Most of these unemployed people can be found in rural, township and urban communities. The Unemployed Peoples Movement must be commended for highlighting this fact through food seizure operations such as these.
Life is hard and unbearable for the poor unemployed masses. Tha pangas of hunger grinds day and night. Children starve and suffer malnutrition. It is greed that results in unemployment and starvation. The reason the poor are without food is because the rich have more than they need. It is a fundamental contradiction of unequal income and wealth distribution between the have lots and the have not’s.
To brand community led and organized food seizure operations criminal in the face of wide spread hunger is contemptuous. We are now bombarded with ‘third force’ conspiracy theories instead of solving the problem of unemployment and hunger. We are told whenever people stand up and fight for their rights is not because they have legitimate grounds for doing so but rather they are being used by someone for political gain. According to this insulting conspiratoral explanation, people do not really have genuine needs which drive them to take action and demand justice.
It is also not helpful to unleash spooks on people’s movements with a sinister motive to sniff out, bribe, intimidate, harass leaders and destroy community organizations when they are raising genuine demands of life and death. The only scientific answer why, for example, unemployed people will seize food in supermarkets is that they are hungry and have no means to buy food. The only options available to them are to starve to death, steal or seize food in broad daylight as they did in Durban. Many hungry people scavenge toxic waste in dustbins and dumping zones to feed their hungry stomachs with great hazard to their health. What kind of a person denies that unemployed people have no money to buy food?
A caring government must therefore consider introducing an unemployment benefit scheme to provide for basic needs of the poor. Such benefit should not be about free handouts of food and money. The scheme must also foster a sense of responsibility amongst the poor unemployed. Beneficiaries must only qualify for the benefit by rendering a service to the community. It must be appreciated that for every reward or benefit of this nature, funded by public resources, recipients of such welfare benefits must in turn make a contribution to community development.