Buyanga’s AMG Brings Relief to Poor SA Communities

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – African Medallion Group (AMG) millionaire Frank Buyanga has re-emerged in South Africa where his company is handing out food parcels to poor communities during the coronavirus lockdown.

A Harare court last week heard that there was no evidence that the Sandton-based Buyanga, who is in the middle of a major custody battle for his five-year-old son, had left Zimbabwe.

A court ordered him to return the child to his ex-girlfriend Chantelle Muteswa after hearing evidence from the chief immigration officer who said despite Buyanga’s lawyers insisting he had left the country, there was no evidence at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport or Beitbridge border post that the tycoon had exited.

Justice Jacob Manzunzu said in an 11-page judgement that if it had had been proved that Buyanga left the country, that would have been “fatal” to Muteswa’s bid to obtain judgement against the businessman. Buyanga’s lawyers say they are pursuing an appeal.

On Wednesday, the 40-year-old was at Emalahleni in Mpumalanga province where his minting company donated tonnes of goods for 160 informal settlements.

Emalahleni executive mayor Linah Malatjie said the emergency food aid had brought relief to the municipality.

The mayor said many in the Victor Khanye municipality are not able to go to work at all during the lockdown and their lives had been disrupted by an unexpected loss of income.

“As a nation, when things like this happen, we try our best to help. However, with the limited resources we have as a municipality, we were not serving our people the way we wanted to. We then issued a notice for individuals with means or companies to help out. AMG heeded our call and we hope others come onboard as well,” said John Sikhosana from the mayor’s office.

“Most of the people that benefited from the donation are informal workers like hawkers and vendors. The lockdown has hit them very hard and these are desperate times for them.”

AMG initially said it planned to spend R10 million on short term relief programmes including food handouts and medical equipment donations, but their CEO Itai Maunganidze said they were increasing this to R25 million.

“The initiative is for short term relief for people. A large section of the population is desperate, and they want food now, they are not working and not earning income. We are talking about people like domestic workers, gardeners, restaurant workers and others that can’t get work now to get paid weekly or monthly,” Maunganidze said.

“After the lockdown, people will need jobs, so we will have to come back and start little programmes so they can self-sustain.”

Before the donation in Emalahleni, he said they had been to Alexandra township in Johannesburg, and Mamelodi in Pretoria.

South Africa’s president on Tuesday announced an “extraordinary budget” of R500 billion (US$26 billion) to address the huge socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that “our country and the world we live in will never be the same again.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a national address said the “historic” amount is roughly 10 percent of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa’s most developed country. The top priorities are combating the virus and relieving “hunger and social distress” as millions of South Africans struggle to survive under lockdown, he said.

One-tenth of the new special budget will go toward the country’s most vulnerable people over the next six months in one of the world’s most unequal nations. The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities, Ramaphosa said.

“We are resolved not merely to return our economy to where it was before the coronavirus, but to forge a new economy in a new global reality,” he said, adding that “our new economy must be founded on fairness, empowerment, justice and equality.”

Poverty and food insecurity have deepened dramatically since the lockdown began on March 27, Ramaphosa said, and he acknowledged that government food distribution has been unable to meet the “huge need.”

Some 250,000 food parcels will be distributed over the next two weeks, said the president, who strongly condemned reports of officials diverting aid.

Local media reports have described in stark detail how families are trying to practice social distancing in crowded shacks in informal settlements. Some communities have been in the dark for weeks or months, unable to meet electricity payments, Clean water often comes from shared community taps, if at all.

Ramaphosa said other priorities for the new budget include the protection of companies and workers in a country where the economy had been struggling even before the pandemic. The lockdown has halted most economic activity, with only essential service workers in sectors like food and healthcare allowed to operate.

A large part of the workforce is in the low-income informal sector. Ramaphosa announced special increases to the monthly social grants upon which about 16 million of South Africa’s 57 million people rely for survival.

The virus and measures to contain it will continue to take a severe toll “in the weeks and months to come,” with many people losing their jobs, the president said. Unemployment already had been 29 percent. The central bank now projects that GDP will fall by up to 6.1 percent this year.

South Africa’s lockdown is set to continue until May 1. While painful, it has been “absolutely necessary” to save tens of thousands of lives, Ramaphosa said.

South Africa has the most confirmed virus cases in Africa with 3,635 on Thursday.

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