Poverty is our greatest scourge

Published Oct 24, 2019


DURBAN - DURING October, global communities – through World Food Day, October 16, and Eradication of Poverty Day, October 17 – highlighted poverty as the biggest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century.

Poverty is our greatest scandal and scourge. 

Despite endeavours for peace, prosperity and co-operation among nations, the world is not free of conflict. 

Most conflict is attributed to battles over scarce resources, hostile aggressions, lust for territory or simple hegemony. Any attempts by leaders to wipe out immigration, conflict, terrorism and wars will never succeed while poverty remains rampant. 

A prolonged state of poverty leads to cultural and social discrimination against the poor, hindering social integration. Moreover, poverty lies at the root of religious, ethnic, cultural and xenophobic conflicts. 

It is SA’s biggest threat to politics, our economy and social stability. 

SA has made great strides in building a new society and bringing development to those who were marginalised. But so much remains to be done. 

SA is counted among the most unequal societies in the world. Extreme opulence exists alongside abject and crushing poverty. 

Although some choose to concentrate their gaze at the few black millionaires and rising black middle class, the truth is that the poverty divide, by and large, is along racial lines and continues to grow. 

SA remains defined by two economies – one that is characteristic of the developed world and the other that is characteristic of the underdeveloped world.

Instead of focusing on the plight of the masses, the petty political bourgeoisie is involved in debilitating political skirmishes, which have nothing to do with the public’s struggles. 

Government does not advocate real support for the lone, politically unattached entrepreneurs. 

Only connected cronies are advanced in their black empowerment strategies, lest they create a “bourgeoisie” class resistant to their centrally driven economic ideology. 

The country’s businesses, particularly those in control of production, assets, experience, opportunities and other resources, are not willingly sharing their gains. 

They do not use their advantage to address deep-rooted realities, such as the country’s stagnant economy, unemployment crisis, inequality and poverty. 

The country’s businesses are sitting on huge cash reserves, estimated at R3.5 trillion, which it hoards or depletes rather than investing in programmes of economic growth, employment creation and poverty alleviation. 

In progressive countries, the news that 29% of citizens are unemployed would lead to mass pressure on government, business, labour and other social partners, to put aside their narrow interests and work for the good of the country. 

Instead, the reality that more than 10.2 million South Africans are condemned to joblessness is met with calls for narrow-minded ideologies like nationalising the Reserve Bank, the privatisation of state-owned enterprises and criticism of free market capitalism.

Not to mention nationalist, racist and divisive propaganda such as “white monopoly capitalism”, “radical economic transformation” and creating unnecessary policy uncertainties. It is time that the country’s leaders show the nation that adversaries can co-operate when there is a common challenge.

In a country as rich as SA, is it not a “crime against humanity” that countless people beg on street corners? 

Wouldn’t it be ideal for the country’s rulers to release annual statistics on poverty? Figures looking at issues like how many people live below the bread line, and how many people are either getting out or into poverty? 

There could be other issues that the government monitors on a yearly basis. 

For example, how many people are without water, electricity, health care, education, transport, safety and security? 

Unless SA offers reasonable prospects of opportunities to the vast majority of its people, increasing social tensions can be expected.


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