• Home
  • Insights
  • Marginalised, desperate and angry: The poor are now beyond breaking point

Marginalised, desperate and angry: The poor are now beyond breaking point

Andy Du Plessis | FoodForward SA

People all over the world are feeling physically and/or mentally exhausted, while others are depressed, fearful and anxious because of the hardship they have had to endure as the ubiquitous pandemic and its seismic after-effects continue to cause havoc across all sectors of our global society.

South Africa has not been spared its share of this melancholy. Starvation, malnutrition, job losses, food price inflation, load shedding, looting and riots, fuel price increases, transport and electricity hikes, corruption and coping with the loss of loved ones, especially breadwinners, has made life near unbearable at times for many.

Unfortunately, conditions are unlikely to improve any time soon. As our economy continues to hobble along, the middle class is clearly feeling the proverbial financial pinch while the poor are already stretched beyond their ability to survive, leaving them vulnerable to mental illness, sickness, disease and exploitation.

“Food price inflation is increasing rapidly”


According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group (PMBEJD), food price inflation is increasing rapidly. The group’s October 2021 media statement revealed that a household food basket consisting of basic groceries cost R4,317.56, which is 10.2% higher than the previous month.

Meanwhile, the national minimum wage is R3,643.92. When factoring in transport, electricity and other costs, this mammoth shortfall means that as food prices escalate, food availability for low income earners shrinks significantly for the poor and places severe pressure on these households to be able to secure enough food for a family for a full month. PMBEJD raises the alarm by emphasising that “the cost of the household food basket is very high and families can’t afford it. We remain in an emergency food crisis, and this crisis is set to deepen.”

As this chasm in income levels versus the cost of basic food groceries and other necessary expenses widens, further desperation and frustration from the marginalised and angry poor, will likely see an increase in already out of control crime statistics, a rise in erratic looting and riots - similar to what we have witnessed in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July 2021, and further increases in the unemployment rate, which will destabilise our ailing economy and fragile social stability even more.

Government, civil society must work together to implement social policy


So how do we successfully navigate this turbulent and uncertain environment? Firstly, we need a more capable state - a well-oiled machinery that is committed to rooting out corruption and implementing a pro-poor plan since the current safety nets are grossly insufficient.

The National Development Plan (NDP) was comprehensive enough at the time of its release, but given the multiplicity and severity of our current challenges, further exacerbated by a prolonged and unpredictable pandemic, we need a new, more robust and inclusive paradigm.

Secondly, for this new paradigm to be successful, the government must take the lead but it is essential that they consult civil society broadly, which has been their downfall in terms of developing and implementing social policy.

Over the past 20 months, as food insecurity worsened intensely, it was an over-burdened civil society that “carried the can,” making sure that meals were prepared daily under very difficult circumstances - packing food parcels for desperate households, taking people to get urgent medical attention and offering psycho-social counselling for anxious and vulnerable people in their respective communities.

Government cannot ignore the crucial role that civil society plays, taking up the slack. Civil society must be regarded as a key stakeholder of social reform and the government must find ways to better support high impact civil society organisations doing incredible work in under-served communities.

Address food insecurity through better access to food


Lastly, because of the critical nexus between jobs and food security, as unemployment continues its upward trend, our first priority as a nation must be to ensure that we address the disturbingly high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition by creating better access to food for the most vulnerable households until such time that job creation levels can mitigate this risk.

The Bureau for Food and Agriculture Policy’s (BFAP) Baseline Agricultural Outlook for 2021 - 2030 released in September 2021 states that “unfortunately, despite the sector’s successful contribution to food security through the availability of food, the stark reality is that approximately half of the South African population cannot afford a basic healthy diet.”

As a consequence, we are likely to see the emergence of higher incidences of child and maternal malnutrition, which is a sad indictment for a country that produces enough food to feed all its people. There is a critical need for faster progress, more action and better implementation strategies that address household food insecurity and malnutrition.

In 2022, Stats SA will conduct their national census, which will give us a much clearer picture of poverty at the household level. Government must use this data to formulate this new paradigm of social reform and implement it speedily, or we may see desperation and anger lead to protracted social instability and economic regress that could be near impossible to recover from.

 

Andy Du Plessis | FoodForward SA

Andy Du Plessis is Managing Director of FoodForward SA, an NPO established in 2009 to address widespread hunger in South Africa. FoodForward SA recovers quality edible surplus food from the consumer goods supply chain and distributes it to community organisations that serve the poor.

Other resources

Related articles


NGOs must be part and parcel of achieving global SDGs
Insights
Social impact organisations’ engagement with the UN’s sustainable development goals is critical since their agendas are ultimately the same. While the Covid-19 pandemic rages, we often focus all our attention on surviving the day-to-day struggles while neglecting crucial global long-term...
Covid-19 and the yearning for a collective narrative
Insights
Over the past few weeks, I’ve come across three different reports observing that the course of the Covid-19 pandemic does not follow our expectations for how a story should play out. All three suggest that this narrative failure partly explains the difficulty in mounting a unified public response...
We need to rethink how the non-profit sector is financed
Insights
Why should non-profit organisations be expected to operate any differently to private businesses when it comes to covering overheads? Increasingly, philanthropic funders are building into their grants a cushion for funding operating expenses – and this is the right way to go. In 2013 a new TED t...
Narrative Emergency Kit: How should we prepare for the next crisis?
Insights
Watching tragedy unfold in Ukraine, I have been thinking about the powerful, rapid, and often unexpected impact that major, shocking events can have on narratives that underpin our understanding of the world. While narrative and culture change work tends to take years, events have the power t...
What is UX design and why is it important for your nonprofit?
Insights
UX means “user experience” and refers to designing and creating products with the user in mind. With nonprofits, this can refer to how a user experiences your organisation via your website. For example, let’s imagine that someone hears about your organisation through a social media post, and the...
Funding crisis in North West as Social Development department fails to pay subsidies
Insights
One organisation has already had to close three offices Many non-profit organisations say they are battling to keep their doors open, and some have been forced to close due to non-payment by the North West Department of Social Development. This is affecting the livelihoods of staff and the se...
Good governance, transparency and accountability are thin on the ground in South Africa – civil society must lead the way
Insights
Once an organisation receives public benefit status and does not pay tax on its income, how transparent should the public expect it to be? Contrary to the US, in South Africa people prefer to undertake their philanthropy under the radar. There is currently a major debate about philanthropic acco...
The impact of the Ukraine War on South Africa's food system
Insights
Wars, even wars that are far away, will always affect those who are most vulnerable. In this piece, Tamsin Faragher explains how a distant conflict could lead to a food security crisis at home. When I was 14 - I started attending the End Conscription Campaign meetings. Being a girl, there was ze...
Half of non-profit organisations are failing to comply with the law
Insights
Department of Social Development claims it is deregistering non-compliant organisations. The Department of Social Development (DSD) says only half the more than 250,000 registered non-profit organisations are compliant with legal requirements. In a statement, the Department said there had ...
What do we mean by effective storytelling? Letting go of magic bullets
Insights
How do we tell more effective stories? This is a central question for us at IRIS, a new collaborative hub that brings together funders, storytellers and activists. It’s something I have been interested in since the early days of my career, in radio current affairs in South Africa in the ninet...


© All rights reserved. 

Back to Top