SA-based Basotho receive Covid-19 assistance
MORE than 12 000 needy Lesotho nationals based in South Africa will from next week start receiving assistance in the form of food vouchers to cushion them from the negative impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Social Development Minister ‘Matebatso Doti this week said as soon as they received their vouchers via short message service (SMS), the selected beneficiaries could visit the participating retail outlets to exchange the vouchers for food hampers.
However, the assistance is a once-off gesture worth only M350 per recipient. The government admits that it is not adequate but says it cannot do more as it is hamstrung by limited finances.
“The beneficiaries’ list has been sent and Basotho will receive SMSs from South African retail stores such as Shoprite, U-Save and Checkers,” Ms Doti said this week, adding, “more than 12 000 Basotho will benefit from this initiative”.
She said the vouchers were strictly to be exchanged for food from the retailers and could not be cashed.
The food aid has been a long time coming for thousands of Basotho who were stuck in South Africa when the neighbouring country imposed a lockdown and shut its borders in March 2020 as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections.
Lesotho followed suit by imposing its own lockdown on 30 March 2020. Although the lockdown was lifted on 5 May, the borders remain closed and travel between the two countries is only allowed in exceptional cases such as medical emergencies and high-level diplomatic engagements.
Many South African based Basotho lost their jobs as companies closed shop due to the lockdown and the Covid-19 induced slowdown in economic activity.
As poverty deepened, some of the Lesotho nationals pleaded with the government to rescue them.
The previous Thomas Thabane-led government subsequently announced that it had set aside M4 million to help Basotho in South Africa to purchase food.
Although the fund was announced in April, it is only being disbursed now after the completion of a rigorous vetting exercise to ensure that only deserving Basotho benefit.
However, Basotho, Lehae la Basotho, an association representing the South African-based Basotho, is not happy with delay as well as the paltry amount paid out to each family.
The association’s president, Majorobela Masakale said the M4 million was way too little to help them as most of their members had gone without an income since March.
Ms Doti acknowledged that while the assistance was not enough to cushion the recipients, “this was all the government could afford because it was short of resources”.