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Food activists threaten to boycott business, media

Written by Mpho Lekgetho

Representatives from more than 20 organisations including farmers’ cooperatives, waste pickers associations and unions recently marched to Times Media Group and Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) offices to protest fast food advertising and high food prices.

Just four companies control the milling and baking of bread in South Africa, according to Jacklyn Cock. Cock is a Professor Emerita in Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand and a member of the recently launched Food Sovereignty Campaign.

Just four companies control the milling and baking of bread in South Africa, according to Jacklyn Cock. Cock is a Professor Emerita in Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand and a member of the recently launched Food Sovereignty Campaign.

The march followed a three-day People’s Tribunal on Hunger, Food Prices and Land held at Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill that concluded this weekend. The marches and tribunal were organised by the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign, a coalition of civil society organisations.

In a statement released after the tribunal, the campaign has threatened to possibly boycott businesses that profit from genetically modified foodstuffs as well as media that are allegedly “indifferent to the cause of the hungry and landless.”

The campaign mentions the Sunday Times specifically. No one from the newspaper accepted the campaign’s memorandum at recent march to the Times Media Group Johannesburg.

The Sunday Times did not respond to requests for comment.

JSE representatives who received the campaign’s memorandum during a similar march last week have vowed to respond to the document within seven days.

Hunger stalks students, mothers

At the tribunal, participants reported that hunger affected a cross-section of society from university students to new mothers.[quote float= right]“The delay of bursary application processes is continuously contributing to hunger in universities. When you are hungry it is difficult to concentrate in the class”

Walter Sisulu Students Representative Council member Nomfundo Mthembu said that hunger stalked many students dependent on bursaries at the Eastern Cape university. She suggested a feeding scheme be put in place.

“The delay of bursary application processes is continuously contributing to hunger in the universities,” Mthembu told OurHealth. “When you are hungry it is difficult to concentrate in the class.”

“Hunger robs you of your dignity,” she added. “We end up borrowing money from our lecturers as they are our last hope.”

Participants also argued that food gardens were not promoted well enough at universities where few students were encouraged to study farming, according to University of the Witwatersrand professor Vinesh Maharaj.

Magdelene Mosiami from Marikana said sores on her breasts forced her to stop breastfeeding her baby. Meanwhile she could not afford to buy baby formula, as her husband was also on strike with fellow mine workers during the time.

“The price of formula milk was rising almost everyday,” she told OurHealth. “I could not afford it so I started changing the formula milk I was using and looking for a cheaper one.”

“The weight of my baby dropped so badly during this time,” she added. “Life was very difficult until we were rescued by the Gift of the Givers.”

The latest South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that one in four South Africans reported regularly going hungry.

“We are drowning in a pool of hunger,” added Dalene Bokwana from the Western Cape NGO Coalition.

About the author

Mpho Lekgetho

Mpho Lekgetho is our citizen journalists based in Kuruman at the John Taolo Gaetsewe District in the Northern Cape. She has a qualification in Industrial Psychology from Unisa. Mpho is a former radio presenter at Kurara community radio station. She is currently working as a data collector for HSRC and is also a chairperson of the JTG Civil Society Forum and co-chairs District Aids Council.

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