Poor to pay price for violent rampage

President Cyril Ramaphosa said government would provide food relief to households in areas affected by the looting. File photo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said government would provide food relief to households in areas affected by the looting. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

 

My family lives in Soweto, about 35 minutes from my home in Sandton.

Though I buy and deliver groceries to them every month, basics such as bread and vegetables cannot be bought in bulk, so I give my grandmother money to buy them from spaza shops and malls in the neighbourhood.

But last week she called in a panic, asking me to buy some perishable goods because the malls and shops nearest to our home had all been destroyed.

There are no shops to buy even a loaf of bread.

Just after hanging up, she called again, saying on second thoughts, it would not be safe for me to drive to Soweto because rioters were stoning cars on the streets.

Sandton was not affected by the violence at all.

The malls and shops are fully functional and there is an adequate supply of food.

As soon as the riots and looting subsided, I stocked up on groceries and took them home.

My grandmother gave me a list of ingredients she would need to bake her own bread.

We agreed that I would bring vegetables home every week.

And so, though they were affected by the riots and looting, my family is not going to face any significant challenges from the shortage of food and medication that is affecting many of our townships.

But my family is one of the lucky few — millions are struggling, and will continue to struggle, to put food on the table.

The cost of the riots that ravaged our country is incalculable.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), national GDP growth could be 0.4 percentage points lower in 2021 due to the effects of the violence and looting.

It estimates that up to 50,000 jobs could be at risk in its baseline scenario, but that the number could be even higher in the downside scenario, in which GDP suffers a greater hit than expected.

This is not conjecture. Damage to property in eThekwini alone amounts to R15bn, according to the city’s mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda.

The total damage suffered by the country is far greater.

Though all of us will be affected, it is the poor who will suffer the most.

Not only will food and medication insecurity hit hard, but we are likely to see even higher levels of poverty in townships.

The malls and shops that were destroyed employ people in the townships where they are located.

Furthermore, large numbers of informal traders rely on the foot traffic that is generated by the centres.

So, thousands of people’s livelihoods are in jeopardy at a time when the economy is already battered.

More than 100 vaccination centres had to be shut down, most of them in townships and surrounding areas.

The implications are unthinkable.

More people are going to be infected and perish from the devastating Covid-19 Delta variant that has wreaked havoc in some of the more developed countries.

And so, when I listen to the rhetoric of “activists” about how the riots were an attack on white monopoly capital, I cannot help but think how ironic it is that it is not rich white people in Stellenbosch who will suffer.

Their businesses are insured, their families are safe and well-fed.

It is the workers, the security guards and the street vendors, who will suffer.

More than this, it is the working-class black families in townships who have nowhere to buy bread and no relatives in Sandton to bring it.

It is the poor who will pay the price.

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