I don’t want to add much to the millions of words that have passed through our internet connections and onto our screens on where we are as a country. But I want to add a few to the question on what we say, and what I consider to be the key theological (and economic, political, social) point that we must hear in the immediate.

A decade ago I often sat around a table with Mpho Putu, as part of the ANiSA discernment group reflecting on what is happening in the communities of our country. Mpho always reminded us that a third of South Africans are food insecure. One third of people are not guaranteed that they and their families will be able to consistently go to bed having eaten enough.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) 20% of South Africans would have been at crisis level in terms of food security in the January – March 2021 period. This means that 20% of South African “Households either (1) Have food consumption gaps that are reflected by high or above-usual acute malnutrition; or (2) Are marginally able to meet minimum food needs but only by depleting essential livelihood assets or through crisis-coping strategies.” (p. 35) Part of that 20% is at catastrophic levels. It excludes the 31% who are not in crisis mode, but are still forced to choose between essential items each month. It does not yet touch on the difficult trade-offs made by those in the 50% who should technically be able to afford what is considered essential (and meeting the essentials should not be out measure of adequacy).

In heartless statistical numbers this reflects what Abahlali baseMjondolo emphasized when responding with a call for just peace. People are hungry. People are desperate. You cannot build communities and a broader society when people are hungry and desperate.

I promise my children that they will never go hungry. I cannot imaging not being able to make that promise. Millions of parents cannot make that promise!

I’m drawn to John Dominic Crossan’s reminder that food was at the heart of Jesus’ message. And specifically that people should have food. “All God’s people must receive a fair share of God’s earth” (The Greatest Prayer). Share God’s food with God’s people. That’s the gospel. Our Father, let your kingdom come, let everyone have their daily bread. We must be clear: that which prevents people from having adequate food is opposing the kingdom of God. It’s not just unjust, it is evil!

Businesses must be rebuilt, shops must be restock, but what we need is a line in the sand saying that never, never again, will a household go hungry. From time to time I check myself against the work of the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity (PMBEJD) group. In their latest figures, a household of four people need R2860 for a basic nutritious diet. That excludes the electricity to cook, the transport to buy.

This should be non-negotiable if we want to talk about rebuilding. Every person, regardless of employment status, must have a just share of God’s food. I don’t know what it would mean if this is non-negotiable. I don’t know what it will mean for how taxes should be set, or which policies should be pushed. There are particular food needs this week. But there is a general food crisis that will continue next week, next month, and next year. How do we join today in ways informed by the urgency of being faced with the evil of a society structured such that people do not receive a fair share of God’s resources? How long will it be before we will say that “Never, never again, will people go hungry…”