PACSA eNewsletter: No.03, 2015



Dear Friends

Greetings from PACSA

This E-Newsletter presents a snapshot of the actions that PACSA has been engaged in over the past month. We hope it will be of interest to you.

This newsletter reaches you as Christians begin their celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This period, the most significant in the Christian calendar, commemorates a story of triumph of life over death and of hope over suffering and despair.

This story of life over death and hope over despair continues to play itself out in the many struggles for dignity by the poor and marginalised. Where people struggle for life, in hope, even in the midst of great suffering, resurrection is happening and the God who triumphs over death is present.

May this Easter time be an experience and celebration of life anew for you and your loved ones.

Mervyn Abrahams
PACSA Director

PACSA enewsletter news

Release of Barefoot Guide 4: Exploring the Real Work of Social Change

barefoot guideThis publication was released at the World Social Forum in Tunis recently and explores questions, experiences and learnings, from practice, relating to the ‘real work of social change.’

Included in this publication are reflections from PACSA’s practice as well as the struggles and experiences of two of our community partners, the Electricity Action Group and the National Health Insurance Research Team.

The publication was prepared by 40 social change activists from 19 countries and is rich in its diversity of experiences and learnings emerging from reflections on real struggles. Announcing the release of the Guide the Barefoot Collective said “this is not a book of easy answers, but one of stories of change, of determined and courageous people taking creative initiatives, presented here not as some “best practice model”, but as something to be learned from, to deepen our questions, to be more thoughtful in our practice.”

To download the Barefoot Guide 4th go to:

Are South African men at the receiving end of an unevenly applied human rights paradigm?

In certain sections of our society and amongst certain men’s movements it is common to put the blame for unemployment amongst men and other issues on the ‘equal rights’ our constitution grant men and women. In order to open a conversation on this issue the uMphithi Men’s Network conducted a reflection session with 34 men in the Mkhambathini area on the 22nd of March 2015. The reflection session heard stories on how the state is perceived to side with women against men. One man stood up and said, “My wife and children kicked me out of my house because I am unemployed. When I reported the case to police, they said I allow my wife to be superior and I am no man, I should man up and go back home to discuss it with her and show her who the man is!” He said he couldn’t do it because he knew what they mean, beat her.”

The reflection session provided space to interrogate the question of whether the marginalisation those men feel is the result of ‘women’s empowerment’ or whether it is part of systemic injustice affecting both men and women. One participant concluded that “there can be no rights for women or men if there is no justice”. Another came to the insight that gender equity is not reverse discrimination but rather a process of creating right relationships of power between men and women.

umphithi reflection

Participants at the uMphithi reflection session

Is National Health Insurance making a difference?

A discussion was held on Wednesday 25th March, facilitated by the NHI Research Team, to reflect on whether the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) is making a difference to people living in uMgungundlovu District – a pilot site for the NHI. Participants in the process had taken part in a discussion on the public health care system two years ago and particularly around how the NHI as an instrument to deliver improvements was constituted. The discussion was located in if people are noticing any changes which can be attributed to the NHI. There was broad consensus that there are still massive problems in the public health care system however, people are noticing improvements and the NHI is making a difference:

  • There are definitely more nurses in clinics and hospitals
  • The accessibility of chronic medications, including ARVs is much improved and the waiting times are much shorter

  • The queuing process and management of files is much better in some places

  • Many facilities are being renovated

  • Some clinics have been converted to 24hour

  • Some of the cancer wards are much improved

“Now when you go to the pharmacy you at least get one pill even if it is not the pill you need.”

“Yes, there are definitely more nurses everywhere, now when it is tea-time at least some nurses are still available to help you.”

However, these improvements identified were cautious as people were saying that although there are more nurses, the training of these nurses is not adequate – with many young nurses not knowing enough to do the work and the attitude of nurses is still (in most cases) very poor. Although access to chronic medications is better; there are still major shortages in the access of medication for minor ailments like back pain, headaches, stomach aches etc. People identified that one of the core improvements that they would like to see is:

  • That each clinic has proper management through a strict, highly competent and no-nonsense clinic matron and that nurses must be qualified, well trained, supervised and supported more;

  • That medications must be available and correct (covering all medical needs);

  • That nurses at clinics must do comprehensive check-ups and give proper and comprehensive diagnosis (not rely on the patient to diagnose themselves)

  • There need for more Doctors – across hospitals and clinics – but particularly at clinics

The future of the Food System in South Africa

food systemsFour scenarios examining possible futures of the food system in SA was launched at the University of Witwatersrand’s, Johannesburg, on the 11th March 2015. These scenarios were developed by a group of 50 South African coming from diverse backgrounds and located at different places in the food system.

Speaking as one of the panellists at the launch of the scenarios, Mervyn Abrahams, PACSA Director, cautioned that the picture which the scenarios present for 2030 is already a reality in many parts of South Africa.

The crisis is already upon us and using the current paradigm of agriculture will not provide us with a food system that addresses the needs of all people.

Access the scenarios publication at:

Documenting our PACSA practice

PACSA staff met for three days last week to document our current practice. Emerging from our reflections are the following: ‘We walk together in a co-created journey while engaging in a meaningful conversation towards building a view of social movement for social change.’ ‘We are in genuine relationships of solidarity with groups which respect our individual autonomy based on share principles of dignity, social just, being fully human.’ ‘We do not do for others what they can do for themselves but our boundaries need to be flexible because development is moving on a continuum.’

current practice1

current practice2

PACSA staff at Practice Development

We summarised our practice around 9 statements. These are:

  1. I am the most powerful “tool”
  2. We hold spaces to get a shared outcome
  3. We ask critical questions to open the process and deepen our joint understanding of context
  4. Our primary resources for the work are peoples’ agency including their experience, skills, knowledge, expertise and connections
  5. Asking, conversing, imagining, we walk together in a co-created journey
  6. We are in genuine relationships of solidarity with groups which respect our individual autonomy based on shared principles of dignity, social justice and being fully human
  7. We connect people to people to enable learning, solidarity, claiming and using power together
  8. We contribute to social change and movements for social justice.
  9. We don’t do anything for someone if they can do it themselves.

Our practice in drawings:

practice drawing1

practice drawing2practice drawing3

PACSA enewsletter foodpricebarometer
Consumer Price Index (CPI) is an inadequate basis for wage negotiations.
It is common practice in wage negotiations that the employer argues for inflation-related wage adjustments by using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In PACSA's February Food Price Barometer statement we argue that CPI inflation adjusted wage increases are inadequate given South Africa's extreme levels of inequality and poverty. We identified 3 points for our argument:
  1. The current baseline wage for the majority of workers is not enough to allow them to support themselves and their families.
  2. The CPI does not accurately reflect the overall expenditure and individual spending patterns on each of the goods and services contained in the CPI basket by workers for whom inflationary adjustments are to be granted.
  3. The prices of goods and services are becoming increasingly unpredictable and are prone to massive fluctuations from one month to the next. Isolating wage adjustments to a particular moment in time is therefore becoming increasingly inadequate and illogical because it fails to reflect inflationary fluctuations and their impact on workers. Almost from the moment workers receive their salary adjusted increases; they are worse off than the year before.
Read the February 2015 PACSA Food Price Barometer here.
PACSA enewsletter upcoming events

1. Ecumenical Good Friday Service & Procession

  • Date: Friday 3 April 2015
  • Time: 6.15am – 8.30am
  • Venue: St Mary's Catholic Church, Jabu Ndlovu Street, PMB
  • Theme: "Arise and act for a just society"
  • Preacher: Cardinal Wilfred Napier, Archbishop Durban

The service includes a Procession of Witness to the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity, Langalibalele Street. All are welcome to attend.

2. Launch of Raymond Suttner's book 'Recovering Democracy in South Africa

jacana media publication


The PACSA Agape provides a space for reflection, prayer and breaking of bread in an ecumenical setting. It was one of the important spaces that kept PACSA focused during the years of struggle. We believe that the Agape allows us to tap into our spirituality and provide energy and focus for us in PACSA as we continue in working for a just society.

The PACSA Agape will take place on the last Saturday of each month. The next Agape takes place on Saturday, 25 April 2015 at the Emaphethelweni Dominican House, 5 Leinster Road Scottsville, at 3pm. For more information contact Sonia at 033-3420052 or

PACSA enewsletter inthemedia

Inside Labour: Budget brings no change for the poor

"WEDNESDAY was budget day, an annual event for the state. But for most South Africans, budget day is every day or, if they are slightly luckier, a weekly or monthly calculation to try to remain at least afloat economically. So what happened this week, along with the plaudits and the protests reflected in the media, will not cause any excitement for more than half the population."

Read the full article here published in the FIN24 on 27 February 2015

Inside Labour: The real budgets: SA's frantic daily juggling act

"Wednesday's budget speech was an annual event for the state. But for most South Africans, it's a daily or – if they are slightly luckier – weekly or monthly calculation they make to try to remain afloat financially. What happened this week, along with the plaudits and protests reflected in the media, will not cause any excitement for more than half the population."

Read the full article here published in the City Press on 1 March 2015


"The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) has based its call for a ZAR8 000 minimum wage on what it calls "the lived experience of ordinary people" of whom 53.8% live below the upper bound poverty line of ZAR779 a month and 21.7% on less than the food poverty line of ZAR335 a month, or ZAR11.17 a day, measured in 2011. In a document prepared in response to finance minister Nhlanhla Nene's maiden budget, Pacsa says its research in Pietermaritzburg showed that a household of five needs at least ZAR8 000 a month to live at a basic level."

Read the full article here published in the eBizBlitz on 24 March 2015

Huge hikes to hit poor hardest - Cost of living set to skyrocket in April

WHETHER you are a business or a consumer, prepare for a double blow to your pockets as Eskom seeks a 22, 27% electricity tariff hike and fuel goes up by around R2 per litre next month. A R2 increase would mean R92 more per tank on a car with a 46¬litre fuel tank. With the fuel increase set to be announced later this week, small businesses and consumers are reeling at the thought of having to also fork out 22,27% more on their electricity each month.

Read the full article here published in the Witness on 23 March 2015

Proposed Electricity tariff hike will cripple Msunduzi

YOU can choose to live in virtual darkness and opt for cold showers, but these measures won't make much of a dent in your electricity bill. And switching to pre-paid meters won't help because the unit charge is much higher than paying directly to the municipality. According to the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), this is because a large part of the bill is for fixed rather than usage charges. Pacsa is calling for a review of the entire Msunduzi tariff structure and for the municipality to take affordability into account with regards to its tariff increases.

Read the full article here published in the Witness on 24 March 2015.

Radio Interviews

  • Mervyn Abrahams on Radio 786 on the 27 March 2015 on developmental paradigms and the role of international aid in poverty elimination
  • Julie Smith on Radio Al-Ansaar on the 23 March 2015 on the impact of electricity prices for residents
PACSA enewsletter feature article

The Death of International Development

Development organisations have failed to address the structural drivers of poverty. By Jason Hickel • 25 Mar 2015

International development is in serious crisis. Charities are worried about the fact that public support for development is waning – that people just don't seem to 'buy it' any more. According to a recent report by the development umbrella group Bond, 'Efforts to eradicate poverty appear to many members of the public to have failed, and scepticism about the effectiveness of aid and global development initiatives has risen.' People are less and less likely to believe that foreign aid is some kind of silver bullet that donating to charities will solve anything, or that Bono and Bill Gates can save the world.

Read the article on the Sacsis website here

PACSA enewsletter writetous 
170 Hoosen Haffejee Street, 
Pietermaritzburg, 3201
P O Box 2338, Pietermaritzburg,
3200, South Africa