Press Statement: The Lessons from July; Let’s feed ourselves through Food Sovereignty


Minister of Finance

Minister of Social Development

Minister of Agriculture

Chairperson of the Solidarity Fund

Dorah Marema, SALGA


Press Statement

The Lessons from July: Let’s feed ourselves through Food Sovereignty!

17 September 2021

The National Food Crisis Forum of the South African Food Sovereignty convened on the 16th of September to assess the July violence, food sovereignty pathway building and progress with the realisation of a #UBIGNOW.

We affirm the ANC government is uncaring and anti-people. The burning of food after the July violence, the criminalisation of poverty and the recent arrest of Djo Bankuna is symptomatic of a government without sympathy and common human decency. As the National Food Crisis Forum, we stand with the “Cabbage Bandit” and all peoples and communities who are building alternative food systems from below. Before and during the Covid 19 pandemic we have encouraged food sovereignty pathway building in communities, villages, towns and cities. We should be applauding initiatives for food gardens on pavements, backyards and in communities, not criminalising them. Localised food sovereignty production is the future we want and need to build now.

We stand with the small scale farmers who have been neglected by local governments all across this country. We have continuously called on the local government to assist small-scale farmers with access to land, water, resources and enabling policy support in rural, peri-urban and urban areas.  On Earth Day, we handed over the Climate Justice Charter and the Peoples Food Sovereignty Act to SALGA. Yet, this shameless government is arresting those who are helping the poor even though 30 million South Africans are food stressed. The South African Local Government Association should have the hunger crisis front and centre of local government planning. It should ensure every municipality adopts the Peoples Food Sovereignty Act and people driven food sovereignty policies. We need local government committed to a climate justice approach to the deep just transition. All local government should take the lead in developing democratic water plans, informed by lessons from the recent drought, climate science and community needs. South Africa is going to struggle with water. We believe water reserve planning has to be revisited as a matter of urgency.

The Department of Social Development must empower communities that are building localised food networks. Food parcels are not sustainable, they are a temporary relief to a systemic problem. Moreover, vouchers for food production inputs must support agroecology. If the government is serious about the needs of the people it should actively support food sovereignty pathways that empower people to feed themselves in a dignified way. All across this country, activists are rising to meet this challenge. They are building food sovereignty pathways to empower, unite and feed their communities. Ubuntu reconciliation gardens in Phoenix are uniting and feeding the community while the state continues to be missing in action. Although we invited the Solidarity Fund to come and explain how the R400 million which was meant to help communities affected by the July violence is being used, they failed to show up and talk to the activists who are working to restore their communities. The state’s narrow reductionist stance of reducing the July violence to law and order cannot deny the structural and systemic issues of hunger and poverty which it has failed to address. Without addressing the hunger crisis systemically more outbursts of public violence and looting for food is likely, given the desperation.

South Africa urgently needs a new social contract to deal with these multiple crises. The climate justice charter outlines that vision and the Climate Justice Deal it advocates is one big step in turning that vision into policy. Crucial in this regard is the fiscally neutral universal basic income grant #UBIGNOW outlined in our technical document: Approach and Policy Document .We have campaigned for a #UBIGNOW since level 5 lockdown and it is central to a deep just transition. We have contributed to and built a societal consensus for this crucial democratic systemic reform. Together with food sovereignty it affirms the right to food and a dignified life. It is unfortunate that instead of a UBIG, the treasury is discussing a means-tested income transfers. We have a Department of Social Development also obsessed with means tested support measures. Means-tested relief measures will require extensive resources in evaluating who qualifies, it will be another waste of limited state resources to determine if the poor are deserving. What the state should be looking at are the policy proposals that ensure the rich pay their fair share so that a UBIG can be financed through progressive taxation. We reiterate the time has come for a #UBIGNOW. We have done the policy work and it is viable.

For further information, contact:

Awande Buthelezi, COPAC researcher and organiser, SAFSC and CJCM activist, 079 613 8191

Charles Simane, COPAC researcher and organiser, SAFSC and CJCM activist, 073 284 1126

Vishwas Satgar, COPAC board chairperson, SAFSC and CJCM activist, 082 775 3420