The rapidly escalating food prices have been attributed to the ravages of a drought so severe that this country will have to import maize this year – a natural disaster which cannot be laid at the door of the government – and the meltdown of the South African economy, which is, in many quarters, being directly attributed to President Jacob Zuma’s administration.
The economists are already making dire predictions about the rising prices and the effect a further rise in fuel prices will have, and the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has made a prediction these increases could be in the region of 19%.
This will probably not make a huge dent in the household budget for our members of parliament who, with their 5% pay rise approved earlier this year, will be taking home R934 000 a year. Or for that matter members of the various provincial legislatures, who pocket an annual pay cheque of R904 000. And if televised coverage of parliament is to be believed, there is an unhealthy proportion of our politicians who seem to dine very well.
Contrast this, if you will, to the unemployed single mother whose only monetary source is a monthly R350 child support grant. Here shopping basket economics are paramount and even the smallest uptick in what the shopkeepers deem to be the going rate can have a major impact. Parliamentary debates and cold research all have their place in our society.
Yet without the social fabric which thankfully still binds many South Africans into a mutual aid spirit of ubuntu, undernourishment would doubtless be more prevalent than it already is. But all of this misses an issue which goes to the very heart of our democracy. Macro-economic mouthings mean very little to a child with a belly distended by hunger.