Homeless people sleep on the streets outside the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town's CBD. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA Pictures
Cape Town - Two years into the Jacob Zuma presidency, poverty was on the decline but since then South Africans have gradually been getting poorer.

Data released by Statistics SA show poverty increased from 53.2% in 2011 to 55.5% in 2015. Former Institute for Security Studies research consultant Alex Porter said sustained population growth and modest economic growth mean the region will continue to see diverging poverty trends.

His prediction is that should poverty trends continue, more than 40million people are expected to face extreme poverty by 2040 throughout southern Africa.

Porter said: “Every country in southern Africa is expected to see an increase in absolute poverty.”

Statistician-general Pali Lehohla released the statistics and said there is no end in sight to what society is experiencing. “The proportion of the population living in poverty declined from 66.6% in 2006 to 53.2% in 2011 but increased to 55.5% in 2015.

“The number living in extreme poverty increased 2.8million from 11million in 2011 to 13.8million in 2015. But this is lower than in 2009 when persons living in extreme poverty were 16.7million.”

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said under the current government poor South Africans continue to suffer. “There can surely be no greater indictment of any government’s performance than the number of people living in poverty rising on their watch. After all, the primary objective of being in government must be to improve the lives of the poor.”

Maimane said the stats are a result of poor economic policies. “These include policy uncertainty, low and weak economic growth, continuing high unemployment levels, higher consumer prices and lower investment levels.”

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) researcher Zachary Donnenfeld said poverty is the single biggest challenge Africa faces. “In southern Africa, the history of colonialism is exacerbated by structural poverty, and particularly in South Africa and Namibia, which has some of the highest inequality in the world.”

He said South Africa made strides in tackling poverty with social grants but it wasn’t enough.

Institute for Race Relations chief economist Ian Cruickshanks said South Africans are getting 2% poorer each year as the population increases and economy decreases, leaving many in poverty.

He said if the trend continues, people might rise up. “As they say, ‘a hungry people is an angry people’ and a majority of the poor will say we are poor but MPs are getting rich.”