BBC News, May 13
Blacks are getting poorer in South Africa while whites are getting richer, a new survey has found.
Incomes in South African black households fell by 19% between 1995 and 2000, while white household incomes rose by 15%, according to the development research body id21.
Last year, two out of three black households in Cape Town townships did not have enough food to eat.
“On a psychological identity level, political liberation did mean a lot,” the report’s co-author Cobus de Swardt told BBC News Online.
The bottom two-thirds of black people in South Africa have seen a substantial decline in their incomes as linked to inflation
Cobus de Swardt
“But poor black people are still isolated from the dynamic economic centres.”
The research, carried out by the University of Western Cape, surveyed black townships around Cape Town, where it found 76% of households living below the poverty line of R352 ($42) per month.
Over half of these households had no waged income, and almost one third reported that the main breadwinner had lost a job in the previous year.
Education ‘little effect’
Waged employment is vital to poor households in South Africa, partly because colonial land-grabbing and apartheid destroyed the black farming economy in order to create a cheap labour force.
Conditions for poor black workers have worsened over the last two decade as South Africa has never recovered from the 1974 oil crisis, he said.
“The bottom two-thirds of black people in South Africa have seen a substantial decline in their incomes as linked to inflation,” Mr de Swardt said.
Interestingly, educational attainment in these areas appears to have little effect on the individual’s job prospects.
Chronic poverty also puts households at risk of malnutrition, disease and violence: the main causes of death were avoidable effects of poverty: HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (39%) and physical assault (29%).
Mr de Swardt and Andries du Toit argue that government initiatives are urgently needed to protect such households against the risks and exploitation chronic poverty exposes them to.
They call for poor households to be given direct access to resources, such as land, to produce their own basic food requirements, and for government to strengthen and improve social services and the social security system in chronic poverty-affected areas.
Meanwhile, a study commissioned by Cape Town health officials shows that the life expectancy of black people in the city is expected to plunge to an average of 40 years because of the Aids epidemic, reports South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper.
Dr Ivan Toms, head of the city’s health department, said last week that while the study dealt only with Cape Town, the results indicate life expectancy in the rest of the country would fall to 40 three years later.
“Effectively we are running about three to four years ahead of the rest of the national position because of our advanced anti-Aids programmes,” Dr Toms told the newspaper.
In a report released this week called “The Impact of HIV/Aids on the Population of Cape Town” researchers said blacks, who live mostly in informal settlements and townships close to Cape Town’s tourism mecca, are currently expected to live to the age of 55.
People of mixed race whose life expectancy is presently 65, are expected to live only till 55 from 2009.
Whites are excluded from the public health sector study as they mainly use private medical facilities.
South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world with an estimated 4,7-million South Africans — 11% of the population — infected.