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Salvation for South Africans striving to survive

The Covid-19 pandemic and government lockdown regulations have got South Africa into a state, which is making us all feel as if we are on the last gasp of our very lives.

More and more people are turning to The Salvation Army. We and our supporters are being severely hit by the impact this is all having. Prices of everything are sky-rocketing. The mood is desperate and hopeless. Yet despite all this we have some uplifting winter stories to warm
our hearts.

On a typical freezing Sunday morning in Johannesburg outside our South Rand Corps (church), Rosettenville, there’s already a crowd for our much-needed lunch which is now served in polystyrene food holders. These too shoot our costs up. Masks and social distancing are strictly in place. Everybody is starving and shivering, from the very oldest to the tiniest tot. They are all clutching threadbare clothing or blankets to their bony bodies. We still take time to give thanks to God for making this gift of food possible. The words in Lt Mutize’s grace are gentle and bring the warmth of human compassion and understanding to their hearts.

In the kitchen Rejoice Magaya and her Community Care Ministry team are hard at work dishing up 40 Sunday meals, comprising mince and beans on rice. This week two of our 20-year-old members, Thapelo Gumede and Lindokuhle Mtuki prepared and cooked the entire meal.

For most people seeking our sustenance, it’s the only meal of the day – for many it could be the only real meal in several days. Blankets are also handed out to those most desperately in need.

Can a warm meal really mean so much? Yes indeed. It also says “We care about you and won’t let you down – and it warms their hearts.”

Each man and woman in the queue has a story to tell. Trying to find the R30 it costs to spend a night in a shelter, shivering in the icy cold, eating out of bins, and robbed of blankets and clothing in the night. Retrenchments cause all these incidents. Job-hunting is another desperate plight resulting in often degrading and inhumane experiences.

The struggles continue

No one is immune – all the races in South Africa are affected by these circumstances.

Jack* (56) worked for a clothing company until it closed down. Since then he has been unable to find work and relies on The Salvation Army’s Sunday meal (he admits to often going to bed hungry). A keen tennis player, he now teaches tennis to kids in the area, generally without payment. “Parents are struggling to survive, let alone pay for tennis lessons. These kids don’t have much, and tennis not only keeps them off the streets, but gives them a sense of achievement and fun,” he says.

After leaving school Clinton* (28) worked for a panel beating company, which was forced to close because of lockdown. He was retrenched and has struggled to find work ever since. He walks the streets collecting plastic bottles to sell so that he can buy food. It’s a daily struggle and The Salvation Army’s weekly meal does wonders for his morale, and his hope to get a job – no matter what.

A really tragic pair are Thomas* (67) and his son Joe* (41) with whom he stays. They live off Thomas’ government pension and Joe’s disability grant. Thomas has epilepsy and requires his son’s care. Both are loyal Salvation Army attendees.

Like so many domestic workers in South Africa, Thandi* (32) lost her job when her employers emigrated; her knuckles could almost be raw from knocking on doors in the hope that someone will offer her work of some kind. Sadly, she has been unsuccessful as yet.

The rising tide

According to Lt. Mutize, since lockdown there is definitely a rise in hunger, as we see more people turning to The Salvation Army than ever before – many for the first time. There are more families with children, more elderly, more homeless and all hopeless. We do everything possible to try to repair shattered hopes and create faith and hope in the future.

With the desperate financial situation destroying people’s lives our need for funding is more imperative than ever. Whatever you can manage will be most gratefully received by the hundreds of shell-shocked people in the country.

In closing I would like to quote Proverbs 22:9 “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”

We care and we thank you for caring too. May God bless you for your kindness.

Captain Velani Buthelezi
Public Relations Secretary
Southern Africa Territory

PS. We know how difficult things are for everyone today, and appeal to you from the bottom of our hearts for as much support as you can possibly give to help all those far worse off than we are.

*Names changed to protect identities