Glebelands - United in Hunger

Below is a letter from Vanessa Burger.

Gift of the Givers humanitarian intervention at Glebelands Hostel, for the first time since the violence began, saw people from opposing sides standing together as people in need.          
Political baggage was set aside for the day when the Gift of the Givers Foundation rolled into Glebelands to distribute much-needed aid to victims of the ongoing violence. After nineteen blood-soaked months, community members set aside prejudice, fear and loathing as they joined the long queues to receive high-energy nutritional supplements, basic foodstuffs, cosmetic and cleaning hampers. Five hundred packs were distributed, each catering for the basic needs of a family of four for one month, providing support to 2000 hostel residents and their families in the rural areas.
Gift of the Givers – renowned for their fearless work in war zones – were one of the few non-governmental organizations willing to get involved at Glebelands Hostel. And they moved quickly, assessing the need and logistical requirements within only a few days. The organisation’s experience and professionalism was evident in the calm and ordered manner with which the aid was dispensed, together with the help of community leaders, ensuring that the most needy were assisted first. Headed by Salim Sayed, the Gift of the Givers Foundation Operations Manager, the team brought two 12-ton trucks to the aid of the beleaguered community – those who had been violently and illegally evicted, the dispossessed, those who had lost breadwinners and the many who have lost their jobs after attempts had been made on their lives or they had become targets of constant death threats. After the most vulnerable had been assisted, the remaining food parcels were distributed amongst the rest of the affected community. Residents from all factions joined the queues. Gift of the Givers’ motto: "Best Among People are those who Benefit Mankind" ensured unconditional access to assistance, irrespective of factional affiliation – the first meaningful intervention since the violence began.
The organization has also undertaken to explore further intervention strategies at Glebelands such as group trauma counselling for those who have lost loved ones during the violence or been violently evicted; further food distribution and the possibility of establishing self-sustaining community empowerment projects such as food gardens and skills development with a view to job creation. With an unemployment rate of between 65% and 95% such interventions would be most welcome and could form the basis of lasting peace. Other initiatives which could play an important role in combating the violence are sports and entrepreneurial development, educational support, and life skills services – project categories in which Gift of the Givers are already involved in other areas.
After so much death, destruction and misery, it was heartening to see positive community spirit.
“The community has always feared each other, but today they came together. Gift of the Givers have succeeded where our political leaders have failed,” said one community member – the survivor of a failed assassination attempt and evicted in 2014, now homeless and a target of seemingly malicious police charges.
“Our political leaders, when they come here, they come to divide our people – they are still continuing. They don’t care about people’s lives, only our votes. Gift of the Givers don’t need our vote, they care about the lives of the needy and jobless community as their first priority, hence they are not associated with any political organization. The government, they come with food parcels when they want us to cast our votes. After we cast our votes, they forget about us.”  
“We thank Gift of the Givers for what they have done for us, they must continue their involvement here at Glebe.”
This initiative not only united the community, but the relaxed atmosphere rubbed off on the police who were seen laughing and talking with the community.
We thank members of the Public Order Policing Unit, Umlazi SAPS, Crime Intelligence, Metro Police who provided an escort to the Foundation and ensured the safety of the community while they collected their food parcels. We particularly thank the SAPS members who assisted residents of Block 49 who were evicted while the aid was being dispensed after they received threatening letters last night. It is hoped the police take strong action against those who continue to terrorise women, children and innocent members of the community. We also congratulate members of the Provincial Task Team and others responsible for recent important arrests. We hope these will lead to meaningful sentences and send a message that finally, crime and corruption will not be tolerated regardless of political affiliation.      Gift of the Givers mission is to actively seek to build bridges between cultures and religions to engender goodwill, harmonious coexistence, tolerance and mutual respect. Today, at Glebelands, an enormous positive step in the right direction was made, proving that unity and forgiveness would be possible if the needs of the people were prioritized.
Our grateful thanks to Gift of the Givers Foundation!          
Vanessa Burger
(Independent Community Activist for Human Rights & Social Justice)
Cell: 082 847 7766 /  Email:
Salim Sayed
(Operations Manager: Gift of the Givers Foundation)
Cell: 083 651 2006  /  Tel: (033) 811 0825/6  /  Email:
Tel: +27 (0) 31 208 2312 / +27 (0) 31 208 2315 / Email:
Bongani Mthembu
(Glebelands Hostel Community Leader / Ubunye bama Hostela Representative)
Cell: 073 232 0030
Sibusiso Hluthwa
(Glebelands Hostel Community Leader / Ubunye bama Hostela Member)
Cell: 083 524 1297