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WEBINAR: A Just Recovery: Rebuilding Food Systems after Covid-19 and Unrest in South Africa

THURSDAY 30 September 2021 from 13:00 – 14:00 SAST/CAT

PLAAS invites you to a webinar titled ‘A Just Recovery: Rebuilding Food Systems after Covid-19 and Unrest in South Africa’

The speakers include:

  • Ayanda Madlala, Association for Rural Advancement
  • Dudu Ngcobo, a street trader in Pietermaritzburg
  • Makhanana Malungane, University of Pretoria
  • Mervyn Abrahams, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group

The webinar will be chaired by Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Public Affairs Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand.

South Africa’s food system has lurched from one crisis to another. On top of Covid-19 restrictions, widespread looting in several metros has forced poor people to shop in more upmarket areas. Money is migrating ever faster out of poor and working-class communities, into formal food retail shops and malls in middle-class areas.

The immediate aftermath of the unrest and destruction of shops and malls in several metros during July has been predictable: people in working class areas have lost access to food and livelihoods. After restoring ‘order’ and food supply lines, government attention turned to relief assistance in two main forms. First, direct recovery funds for affected businesses, but this was restricted to formal businesses, which were also more likely to have insurance. Left out of the net for relief funds were the majority of informal and small businesses, including street traders and bakkie traders. Second, the government reintroduced the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant of R350 per month for which all adult citizens who are unemployed and receive no other social grant are eligible. These two responses typify state responses to governing crises in the food system: direct bailouts for the formal sector; neglect of the informal sector on which most poor people in the food system rely; and modest income support in the form of grants which, as a result, directly flow to the formal sector and entrench inequalities and corporate profit-taking.

The webinar aims to reframe the post-Covid and post-unrest ‘recovery’ discourse to foreground the danger of entrenched corporate power in the food system, and the immediate opportunities to “build back” different and better. This requires an understanding of inequality, power and politics in food systems. On the basis of social dialogues with people who derive their livelihoods as small-scale farmers, bakkie traders and street sellers, as well as ongoing research, we will report on some of the impacts on these urban food systems and identify ways this moment can be seized to reshape food systems beyond a narrow ‘recovery’ paradigm. With local government elections on the horizon, concrete action is needed. National regulation and policy should complement local solutions. Local government has a key role to play in creating, expanding and defending public space for non-corporate food producers, distributors and sellers.

Twitter: #Africanfoodsystems #Unrest

Tune in on Thursday 30 September 2021 at:

  • 13:00 South African Standard Time (SAST)/Central African Time (CAT)
  • 12:00 West African Time (WAT)
  • 11:00 Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT) (Ghana)
  • 14:00 East African Time (EAT) (Tanzania)

Watch the webinar here: Or scroll down to view it.

This webinar is part of the African food systems and Covid-19 project supported by the IDRC. To learn more about this project, visit its page here: