● 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple have lost their jobs ● Gen­eral worker can't af­ford food bas­ket ● Many have re­sorted to money lend­ing

Saturday Star - - Front Page - SHAUN SMIL­LIE

SEVEN months of lock­down has left mil­lions of South Africans fac­ing star­va­tion and in­creas­ing de­pen­dence on so­cial grants at a time when the gov­ern­ment is scram­bling to avert a fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Price in­creases on sta­ble foods, elec­tric­ity and cook­ing oil have left even those South Africans for­tu­nate to have a job with not enough money to see them­selves through an av­er­age month.

On Wednes­day, the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg Eco­nomic Jus­tice and Dig­nity (PMEJD) project launched their ex­panded House­hold Af­ford­abil­ity In­dex, which now cov­ers four cities and towns across South Africa, in­clud­ing Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, Cape Town, Jo­han­nes­burg and Spring­bok, in the North­ern Cape.

It pro­vides a snapshot of a South Africa deep in an eco­nomic and so­cial cri­sis where the poor are fac­ing the worst of it.

Price in­creases over the lock­down pe­riod have left even those for­tu­nate South Africans who have a job with a short­fall.

They found that a gen­eral worker on the na­tional min­i­mum wage of R3653.76 would not af­ford the House­hold Food Bas­ket of R3916,72.

“Over the past sev­eral months, our in­comes have come down, and the cost of goods and ser­vices has gone up. Most house­holds liv­ing on low in­comes can­not get through the month on the level of in­come that comes into the home and can­not af­ford even the very ba­sic goods and ser­vices they need,” said Julie Smith, a re­searcher at the PMEJD.

“Even if en­tire wages were spent on food, which they are not, ed­u­ca­tion, econ­omy and so­cial out­comes will con­tinue to un­ravel and will con­demn another gen­er­a­tion to des­per­ate poverty,” said Smith.

To cover this short­fall many have re­sorted to bor­row­ing money from money lenders, who do so by of­fer­ing high in­ter­est rates.

South Africa has also ex­pe­ri­enced dra­matic job losses.

“Statssa’s lat­est job sta­tis­tics for quar­ter two of this year shows that 2,2 mil­lion South Africans lost their jobs, and in the last quar­ter, the ex­panded un­em­ploy­ment rate for black South Africans is 46%,” added Smith.

The study found that some of the main foods driv­ing up the costs of the House­hold Food Bas­ket are maize meal, rice, cake flour, sugar beans, cook­ing oil and pota­toes. This in­crease over the lock­down pe­riod on the House­hold Food Bas­ket for Pi­eter­mar­itzburg was R293,38, or 9,1%.

A lo­cal NPO has since stepped in and has fed and bathed the young­sters.

While Pink wel­comes in­ter­ven­tions, she thinks it is short-term and that the mi­nors re­quire sustained care.

“Dona­tions can only last so long and what those kids need is Child Wel­fare to keep an eye on them for the fore­see­able fu­ture.”

Child Wel­fare and the po­lice did not re­spond to The Sat­ur­day Star’s queries on the mat­ter.

But re­ports sug­gest the po­lice are aware of the sit­u­a­tion and that the fam­ily vi­o­lence, child pro­tec­tion and sex­ual of­fences unit mem­bers con­ducted a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion but no case docket had been opened.

A GROUP of farm­ers gath­ered in an open space in Senekal in the Free State yes­ter­day ahead of the ap­pear­ance of the two ac­cused in the mur­der of farm man­ager Brendin Horner. See Page 4 | OUPA MOKOENA African News Agency (ANA)

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