House of Hunger The Weaponisation and Politicisation of Food (Protests) in South Africa during covid-19

Rejoice Mazvirevesa Chipuriro, Kezia Batisai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In South Africa, the politicisation of COVID-19 widened structural fissures, unearthed underlying inequalities, and exposed the ‘rainbow nation’ fallacy. The pandemic highlighted the struggles faced by marginalised households whose income streams were wiped out during lockdown. Public unrest emerged in townships and manifested as food protests, which undermined the perception of South Africa as a food secure country. Whilst the state and mainstream media dismissed these protests as criminal incidences, a contextualised analysis exposes the desperation of certain groups’ experiences of hunger and disillusionment in Black South African townships. Framing ‘food as political’, this paper interrogates the weaponisation of food by the government, which violently used state security forces to subdue marginalised populations. The paper draws on Dambudzo Marechera’s 1978 novella House of Hunger to condemn the gendered and militarised state response to ‘starving black bodies.’ It exposes the ruthlessness of how the state worked with mainstream media to protect corporate capital and foreign investments in the name of ‘security’ and ‘wellbeing,’ and explores the ultimate ‘logic’ of food protests in South African urban areas. In conclusion, the paper argues that the mainstream media hyper-visualised Black bodies as unruly, criminal, and therefore disposable, in order to dismiss their human right to food.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-154
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Black bodies
  • COVID-19
  • South Africa
  • food access
  • food protests
  • looting
  • marginality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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