Plot­ting the causes of fiery protests

The flames that jolted South Africa and fo­cused at­ten­tion on Tsh­wane this week have every­thing to do with the green and red cir­cles on this map. ex­plains

CityPress - - Voices & Careers -

Green for com­fort; red for de­pri­va­tion. That’s how to read this map of rel­a­tive com­fort and de­pri­va­tion across South Africa’s dis­tricts and cities. If, like me, you as­sume com­fort means mid­dle class, you’re wrong, so do not get ex­cited at all the green. The red is scary and sad: it shows where South Africans are de­prived of the very ba­sics. “What struck us was the sheer num­ber of peo­ple with­out the most ba­sic ser­vices,” says Gabriela Mackay of the SA In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions, who led the anal­y­sis.

She used a de­pri­va­tion in­dex that in­cluded peo­ple with no school­ing; a high un­em­ploy­ment rate; no ac­cess to a toi­let; and a monthly in­come of R1 600 or less.

If you look at the red dots on the map, that is sig­nif­i­cant de­pri­va­tion for a mid­dle-in­come coun­try and tells a story of a huge in­come gap.

The def­i­ni­tion of com­fort is an al­most aus­tere one, ex­cept for in­come, which is quite high. The peo­ple in the green are those with a fridge; who have elec­tric­ity and a flush toi­let; an in­di­vid­ual monthly in­come of R25 601 or more; and higher ed­u­ca­tion.

This in­dex ex­cludes third-tier local coun­cils, where the pic­ture is likely to be more red than green, es­pe­cially in ru­ral South Africa.

The six met­ro­pol­i­tan coun­cils or cities that are be­ing most tightly con­tested in the elec­tion are also rel­a­tively much more com­fort­able.

This sug­gests peo­ple get more po­lit­i­cally de­mand­ing as they be­come more com­fort­able. Or, it could sug­gest higher lev­els of “rel­a­tive de­pri­va­tion” be­cause ar­eas of sig­nif­i­cant wealth nes­tle close to those of deep de­pri­va­tion.

Tsh­wane, up in the left cor­ner, is in­ter­est­ing. It has a high level of com­fort, ac­cord­ing to the in­sti­tute’s def­i­ni­tions, but it burnt this week.

The un­rest was fu­elled im­me­di­ately by po­lit­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion for who would wear the may­oral chain, but is there more at play? Let us take a look.

The cap­i­tal has a pop­u­la­tion of 3.1 mil­lion peo­ple, who are well-ed­u­cated by na­tional stan­dards – that is the ef­fect of a large

Ferial Haffajee

civil ser­vice. How­ever, com­pet­ing with this is a very high un­em­ploy­ment level of 27.5% at the of­fi­cial rate – but which is prob­a­bly much higher if you take ac­count of peo­ple who have stopped look­ing for work.

The an­gry young peo­ple who dom­i­nated the air­waves and some tele­vi­sion screens this week are pos­si­bly part of that co­hort.

Us­ing the in­sti­tute’s def­i­ni­tion, 38% of Tsh­wane res­i­dents earn less than R1 600, in­clud­ing so­cial grants. So now, the flames make more sense. Far fewer peo­ple are mid­dle class.

Un­em­ploy­ment and poor ed­u­ca­tion drive de­pri­va­tion, says Mackay. “While ser­vice de­liv­ery is a suit­able in­di­ca­tor of per­for­mance, em­ploy­ment is an equally fit­ting pointer.”

Our joint chal­lenge as a so­ci­ety is to blan­ket this map in green over the next five to 10 years. Other­wise, this week sug­gests that it will burn bright orange in­stead.


Are you com­fort­able or de­prived?

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