Statement by Francois Baird, founder, FairPlay. 29 March 2022
More millions out of work means more poverty, more hunger and more malnutrition. The government must act urgently to ensure food security for all as winter approaches.
South Africa has just reached another new record unemployment level – 35.3% at the official narrow figure and 46.2% at the expanded total, including discouraged work seekers. This means that nearly half of our working-age population is jobless.
It also means that another dreadful record is likely to follow – record hunger, and this is a country with a booming agricultural sector. Instead of another unsuccessful jobs summit, government must act urgently to reduce poverty and hunger as joblessness increases.
FairPlay suggests a five-point action plan:
1. VAT-free chicken. Remove the 15% value added tax (VAT) from the chicken portions consumed most by lower-income households. This can be done immediately and would increase the affordability of South Africa’s most popular source of meat protein.
2. Provide assistance to small farmers in deep rural areas, particularly small poultry farmers who create employment and sell food to local communities.
3. Provide early childhood and pregnant mother feeding schemes to prevent the country’s human potential being degraded by child stunting, which is caused by malnutrition and affects more than a quarter of children under the age of five.
4. Launch a country-wide drive to plant fruit and vegetables on vacant land in townships and cities. Pretoria’s “cabbage bandit”, Djo BaNkuna, showed how it can be done.
5. Support the country’s faith communities – churches, mosques, synagogues – and NGOs involved in feeding schemes, to drive a national feeding outreach to stave off record hunger across the country this winter.
Hunger and poverty are the inevitable results of joblessness, and the three together threaten the country’s social fabric.
A study last year reported that 40% of South Africans go hungry every night, and 2.3 million households reported child hunger.
Hunger levels will be exacerbated by rising unemployment and the food price inflation resulting from Ukraine war.
The time to act is now.