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When ineptitude rules, gwara-gwara scenario deepens in Mzansi


When ineptitude rules, gwara-gwara scenario deepens in Mzansi

Don’t blame Covid, fires, floods or fuel price hikes. The government is responsible for the worsening plight of the poor

Pali Lehohla

A contestation regarding the value or otherwise of social grants in SA flares up from time to time. This is despite evidence that social grants have been at the centre of successful reduction of poverty in the republic. The grants come in many forms – not only as cash but also as a social wage of free basic water, electricity and waste disposal including sewerage. Significantly, society witnessed more shelter as houses, especially those in townships, were finally transferred to occupants who were longstanding tenants. In addition, there were the RDP houses handed out to the needy. There is also a no-fees schools policy from which millions of children are supposed to benefit. These interventionist programmes saw poverty levels in SA, especially measured from a multidimensional perspective of deprivations that members of society are exposed to, decline for almost 15 years from 2001.  

For instance, from 2001, when these programmes took root, to 2011, the poverty-stricken municipality of Msinga saw 60 in 100 as poor in 2001 reduced to 37 By 2016, that number was 24. This was an impressive reduction in poverty. In 2011, we observed similar trends in census data for some districts immersed in agriculture. Mbashe in the Eastern Cape had the highest intensity of agricultural activity, undertaken by mostly elderly women who were also recipients of social grants. There is very little doubt that in part the agricultural activities witnessed there were in part successful because of being partially supplemented by grants, and also thanks to the presence of catalysts for change in those communities.  One thus concludes that grants and leadership therefore matter. 

Another important observation is that by and large across SA, serious reversals in the decline in poverty began to take root between 2011 and 2015, when all provinces saw significant reversals except Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape where they were mild.  It is safe to conclude that SA has been getting poorer and not richer from 2011, not least because of the worsening economic conditions due to downright bad policy choices as well as the corruption which the Zondo commission has laid bare. Worsening these conditions has been Covid-19, but also fires and floods that were predominant in KwaZulu-Natal. The dramatic increases in the price of fuel have left South Africans reeling from a past that was difficult into a future that is very dark...

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