If we are to rebuild the country, we have to keep poverty and hunger at bay
The true impact of COVID 19 might well not have been the amount of people infected by the virus but the number of people affected by it in South Africa.
We seem to have done remarkably well in successfully negotiating the peak of the first wave, if our survival rates are anything to go by, but what of those uninfected but unable to eat?
Yesterday the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PEJDG) commemorated World Food Day by releasing its October 2020 Household Affordability Index.
For those earning the national minimum wage of R3 653.76, there’s no way a family can actually eat without getting into serious debt. That’s of course ignoring the need for transport to get to work, rent, water, electricity and services – or even a cell phone.
By the end of year almost half of our country will be unemployed – dependent on grants, paid for by a government that is finding it increasingly difficult to balance its own books without having to borrow money.
This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced plans to create more than 800 000 new jobs – and extend the special unemployment grant for another three months. We need more.
Food prices have rocketed up in some cases by 10% year-on-year, at a time when inflation has tracked inexorably downwards while the economy was shuttered.
Retailers have to do what they can to control prices, but equally, government needs to continue paying the top ups to the Old Age Grant, the Special COVID Relief Grant and the Child Support Grant because as the PEJDG notes, families eat out of the same pot.
If we are to rebuild this country – saving it from the opportunists and the fascists who would burn it to the ground and starve its people for their own ends – we have to keep poverty and hunger at bay.