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COVID-19 relief packages cause family miseries

RYDER GABATHUSE
Phuthego and her family PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG
FRANCISTOWN: Jerinah Phuthego who hails from Nkange village in the Central District is facing difficult times to feed her own children, nine in number and a 10th - her grand child.

Matters came to a head after the lockdown took away some of the resources she augmented her monthly wages with.

Employed as a labourer at the Francistown City Council (FCC) Roads Department, Phuthego has been augmenting her wages by doing laundry for people thereby pocketing some income that assisted her to provide support to her large family.

With monthly wages of about P2, 900, her extra income from the odd jobs she did incessantly helped her provide for her children even under difficult circumstances.

For and example, she pays rental at the Gerald Estates and provides for all her children, just like any mother would do especially as a single parent. She would buy the groceries and other home necessities and put a smile on her children’s faces.

Since schools closed as a response to the COVID-19 extreme social distancing measures to control the contagious virus, life in her homestead abruptly changed.

In the new order, she has to provide a square meal for all the 10 children in her house Sunday to Sunday. “It’s becoming difficult for me to provide breakfast and lunch for my own children as government had been assisting me by feeding them at their schools,” bemoaned the struggling Phuthego.

She emphasises that her plea for help will not be so loud, if the situation allowed her to do menial jobs to bring more food to her large table.

Amongst others, she sold airtime, candies and others to further augment her meager wages before things took a twist.

Phuthego’s voice represents the voices of many men and women who have been overlooked by the social workers as such persons reportedly failed to meet the set qualification criteria.

Social Worker, Mma-Boipelego or Rra-Boipelego in the vernacular or ‘Mma-Boi’ or ‘Rra-Boi’ as it has been popularised has moved on leaving a trail of dissatisfaction in some homesteads of late.

After protesting the decision of social workers, Phuthego is still waiting for feedback from the authorities.

Her neighbours have also taken up the matter with

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the area legislator, Ignatius Moswaane who has promised to take the matter up.

Francistown West legislator, Moswaane informed Mmegi this week that he has taken up the matter with the Francistown City Council authorities to rethink its earlier decision to reject thousands of stranded and hunger-depressed families from benefiting from government packages.

Moswaane pointed out that a lot of underpaid public servants like Phuthego are unfortunately going to be punished by a system that does not deal with each case on the basis of its own merits.

“Assessing the affordability of individuals should not be a one-size-fits all exercise, but rather the authorities should look at individuals’ affordability to feed themselves and their families,” said Moswaane indicating that circumstances have changed for many homesteads.

He also said since Phuthego and other family heads cannot feed their children, such children should rather be declared as needy and be eligible to COVID-19 food relief scheme.

To him, the FCC should not treat the COVID-19 situation like ordinary destitution programme.

“Whilst many people have been crippled by the State of Public Emergency which has kept them under lockdown, many of these now affected people were feeding their families through many means especially the struggle in the informal sector,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Francistown City Clerk Lopang Pule has this week announced that before the end of this week, he would issue an official statement to people who did not qualify for the COVID-19 relief food programme.

Pule has earlier informed Mmegi that the municipality is currently working on writing official communication to all people who did not qualify for the food hampers.

The City Clerk had added: “We hope to deliver all the official communications to all people who were rejected this week.

This will enable those who were rejected to appreciate reasons why they were rejected.”

 Additionally, he indicated that after all those who were not successful are furnished with reasons thereto; they would then be able to show cause why they need to be reassessed.



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