CAPETOWN – Volunteers in Cape Town on Tuesday followed a tradition that took root in South Africa nearly 40 years ago at the height of apartheid, providing a plate of food to less fortunate families to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
This time there is an added urgency to their gesture of humanity, as spiralling inflation driven by the Ukraine conflict has pushed up staple food prices, making it tougher for cash-strapped consumers in Africa’s most advanced economy.
Normally prepared after late evening prayers on Monday, the steaming pots of aromatic akhni – a rice, potato and meat dish – will be distributed to feed more than 90,000 people across all faiths in Cape Town, the spiritual home of Islam in South Africa.
“In the case of Islam, more specifically Ramadan, there is an increased call for generosity of spirit,” said Sheikh Sadullah Khan, one of the co-founders of Nakhlistan, a not-for-profit outfit which started in 1984.
“You can’t even celebrate your Eid unless you meet the needs of some poor person somewhere”.
Millions of Muslims worldwide celebrated the religious holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of a month-long dawn to sunset fasting period of Ramadan.
On an empty rugby field stood rows of huge 130-litre pots, stirred for hours with a wooden oar-like plank to cook tonnes of food intended for delivery to some of Cape Town’s poorest communities, and even prisons.
“I actually feel grateful because you know there’s a lot of people that don’t have (food) and this side (where we live) poverty is real,” Tamia Galant, one of the recipients in Bishop Lavis, said.
According to South Africa’s Household Affordability Index, the cost of the average household food basket increased by 8.2%, or 344 Rand ($21.34) year-on-year in April, to reach 4,543 Rand compared to last year’s prices.
The high cost of core staples has meant a variety of nutritious food being removed from family meals, impacting household health and stunting child development, the report released last month added.
($1 = 16.1173 rand)