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It sucks to be poor in SA – and the worst is yet to come!

With rising inflation on food, electricity and transportation, the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group anticipates tough times for poor this winter


The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMJED) anticipates rough times ahead for the country’s poor with a 9,6% inflation hike set to impact prices of food, electricity, and transportation.

In the last few years, three core goods and services have been experiencing very high levels of inflation, whilst general or overall inflation has been relatively subdued, says programme director, Mervyn Abrahams.

Annual wage adjustments for low-paid workers and annual increases on social grants have been very low compared to the high inflation levels on food, electricity, and transport, warns Abrahams.

He says, “This has meant that families are not able to afford this year, what they were able to afford last year because increases on wages and grants are lower than the increases on basic goods and services.”

In comparison with the 2,2% increase, Statistics South Africa’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) in February 2021 shows that inflation on food and non-alcoholic beverages is 5,2%, while headline inflation is 2,9%.

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PMBEJD’s data is based on the Pietermaritzburg Household Affordability Index, annualised for March 2021. This clearly shows that inflation on the Pietermaritzburg Household Food Basket is 12,6%.

The cost of this basket has increased by R406,46 over the past year, with the total cost of the basket costing R3 627,45.

The PMBEJD data only focuses on low-income families and captures inflation currently experienced by low-paid workers and people accessing social grants.

Buckle up, Mzansi!

Abrahams further warns that the worst is yet to befall the country’s poor with winter fast approaching.

With continued job losses and prices of essential goods rising Abrahams says, “Food is being taken out of children’s mouths.

“It bears repeating that not ensuring that mothers are able to feed their children properly is a direct form of everyday violence against women and children. It is unlikely that this status quo will change and so we expect that the affordability crisis in households will deteriorate further.”

The affordability index tracks food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, and Springbok.

The March 2021 Household Affordability Index shows that the average cost of the Household Food Basket increased. Other observations include:

  • in March 2021: The average cost of the household food basket was R4 039,56.
  • month-on-month, between February 2021 and March 2021, the average cost of the Household Food Basket increased by R38,39 (1%).
  • over the past seven months between September 2020 and March 2021, the average cost of the household food basket increased by R183,22 (4,8%), from R3 856,34 in September 2020 to R4 039,56 in March 2021.
  • the average increase over the past seven months stands at 4,8% or R183,22 in March 2021. In comparison, the national minimum wage was increased by 4,5%, with a monthly Rand-value increase of R163,68 in March 2021.
  • pensioners will get a 1,6% increase or R30 in April 2021. Mothers raising children will get a 2,2% increase or R10 in April 2021.
  • food price hikes are outpacing increases in baseline wages and social grants.

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Noluthando Ngcakani
Noluthando Ngcakani
With roots in the Northern Cape, this Kimberley Diamond has had a passion for telling human interest stories since she could speak her first words. A foodie by heart, she began her journalistic career as an intern at the SABC where she discovered her love for telling agricultural, community and nature related stories. Not a stranger to a challenge Ngcakani will go above and beyond to tell your truth.


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