After a violent uprising against government this week, exporters and farmers held on to the values embodied by former president Nelson Mandela by donating 20 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables to needy communities.
Every year on 18 July, the birthday of South Africa’s first democratically elected president, people across the globe give 67 minutes in service of others.
Without realising that Mandela Day was around the corner, fruit and vegetable exporter Uzair Essack rallied support for those facing food shortages after widespread looting in parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
Essack is the founder of Riyp and president of Get Giving, a non-profit organisation. He tells Food For Mzansi the food was delivered in a convoy of 80 trucks and will benefit thousands of households.
“Looking at this past week’s events and what’s happening all around the country, I’ve been privileged enough to be in Cape Town where life has been running smoothly,” says Essack.
“I couldn’t sit back, watch and not try and assist in any way, shape or form.”
It was then that the 29-year-old Essack reached out to his extensive network of farming friends to donate much-needed non-perishable, perishable and other essential items.
The response was overwhelming with Langplaas Boerdery, Betko Fresh Produce, Patrysvlei Farms, Chiltern Farms and Yellow Card opening their hearts and pockets. While many others donated money, others came on board with their skills, time and workforce.
“The farmers could have easily sent their produce to Durban where the market is empty and, in the process, make good money. Instead, they were more than happy to donate it,” Essack explains.
Faith in South Africa restored
This is remarkable, says Essack, bearing in mind that farmers in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have also suffered severe losses during what President Cyril Ramaphosa now describes as a “deliberate, co-ordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy”.
The anarchy has taken a toll on many agriculturists with Essack admitting that he toyed with the idea of immigrating.
However, seeing exporters, farmers and many other South Africans doing everything to help disaster-stricken communities restored his faith in the country.
He says, “How I can leave this place? We are a country that goes through so much, but no matter what we go through, we always give back.
“The people whose business have burnt down are the very same people willing to give back to the community, even though they have close to nothing after losing it all.”
Meanwhile, a further 64 tonnes of fresh produce is scheduled to leave Cape Town on Tuesday, two days after the Mandela Day celebrations, adds Essack.
“We are still working out where exactly in KwaZulu-Natal the produce will go.
“We are trying to work with as many different institutions and organisations as possible. First, we want to know where the food and resources are needed the most before we allocate it,” Essack adds.