FAILURE by the Eastern Cape Social Development Department to honour a financial commitment has resulted in a Nelson Mandela Bay HIV/Aids care centre having to close its much-needed feeding scheme, with its staff seeking out the dubious services of loan sharks.
The Emmanuel Advice Care Centre (EACC) in KwaNoxolo, which serves more than 15000 HIV-positive people, has been without government funding for more than a year after the department failed to pay R280000 of the 2010-11 budget.
In addition, while this year's service level agreement has been cut by 73.8%, the centre is still owed R144000. The centre previously received R850000 a year.
"We were given no reason why there was such a huge budget cut," board member Pastor Benjamin Reid said.
The financial cuts have meant that the 300 orphaned and vulnerable children assisted by the centre feeding scheme can no longer be fed.
The centre can also not afford to pay its caregivers whose monthly stipend was supposed to have increased from R600 to R1200 in the current financial year. The caregivers have been working without payment for the past year.
"The carers and office staff don't get their stipends anymore. We have to scrape through when it comes to paying our bills. Fortunately, we get a little funding from overseas," Reid said.
The situation has become so dire for caregiver widow Thokozile Buyaphi that she has been forced to turn to a loan shark to help put food on the table at home for her four children.
"I was forced to approach a skopper [loan shark] for money. I keep on borrowing and have no idea what I owe," Buyaphi said.
Caregiver Sarah Sass is in a similar position.
"My husband is also unemployed and he keeps on asking why I work for so long without getting any money. We go hungry all the time," Sass said.
German volunteer Peter Dorn at the centre said: "EACC doesn't have a cent to buy electricity, gas for food preparation and to pack food parcels and first aid kits."
In order to survive the centre needed about R1.1-million a year.
"The 10 carers serve between 15000 to 16000 HIV-positive people. Every day staff call the department about when they can expect payment, but they are always fobbed off."
Reacting to claims the centre had been left high and dry, provincial Social Development spokesman Gcobani Maswana said the centre had spent funds "without approval from the department" and for this reason R270900 was being withheld.