PACSA eNewsletter: No.6, 2016

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Dear friends

The year is fast drawing to an end and most of us are wondering ‘where it has gone!’ This final newsletter of the year contains news on a number of activities that PACSA has been involved in over the past month. We hope that you find it interesting.

2016 has really been an intense year with many shifts in our context, which in turn required in-depth analysis and strategic shifts on our part. Yet, we end the year with the hope that our interventions, though small in the context of increasing inequality in our society and its impact on the poor, made a difference in the lives of our partners and contributed to some victories for those marginalized from power.

As we approach the holiday season we thank all our friends and companions who journeyed with us over this year. On behalf of the PACSA staff and Council we thank you for your continued support, encouragement, critical engagement and your solidarity with us. We wish you all a peace-filled and restful holiday season.


Mervyn Abrahams
PACSA Director
Holiday season
PACSA enewsletter news

Does the outcome of the 2016 Local Government Elections indicate a major shift in South African politics?

Mervyn Abrahams PACSA Dr Lubna Nadvi Mike Pothier CPLO and Ralph Mathekga at the roundtable discussion
The recent local government elections have been described as a ‘watershed election’ as the ANC lost control of some of the key metropolitan municipalities to opposition parties and a number of coalition governments at municipal governance level. In order to explore the meaning and significance of that election for our long-term political direction, PACSA, in collaboration with the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office, hosted a roundtable discussion on whether the outcomes of the elections indicate a re-alignment of political forces in South Africa?

Influencing Policy on Food in South Africa

A cartoon depicting the discussions at the Southern Africa Food Lab workshop in Johannesburg on 15 November 2016
Since we released our 2016 PACSA Food Price Barometer on 13 October 2016 we have engaged with a number of different stakeholders who are in a position to influence policy on food and the food system in South Africa.

Belgian Youth visit PACSA as part of an exchange visit to South Africa

Belgian and South African youth interact during the exchange visit
On the 3rd November 2016 we hosted an exchange visit between local youth and a group of 13 Belgian youth from St Quirin in the city of Huy, Belgium. The Belgian youth are connected to Entraide et Fraternite a long standing partner of PACSA. The visit and conversation focused on sharing experiences between young people in South Africa and in Belgium.

A National Minimum Wage of R3 500 is too low and could trap millions of workers in continuing cycles of poverty

Table 1: PACSA Affordability Tables: Income and expenditure for households of various socio-economic scenarios: October 2016. See Household H for National Minimum Wage of R3 500.
Table 1
After a number of years of debating in NEDLAC whether South Africa requires a legislated national minimum wage covering all workers and if so, at what level should it be set, a panel of experts advised that the level should be set at R3500.00.
PACSA enewsletter foodpricebarometer

PACSA Monthly Food Price Barometer: November 2016: 13th cheque for pensioners?

Imagine if all old-age pensioners received a 13th cheque in December? Imagine the difference it would make? Pensions are used to teach, clothe and feed kids. Pension money is being used to escape more punitive debt arrangements and secure interest-free loans in stokvels. December and January are very hard months. A 13th cheque of R1 510 could be a strategic intervention to help families start the new year in a better space by contributing to school fees, clothes, shoes, stationery and omalume whilst also enabling the securing of friendlier debt arrangements.  What do you think? If you support the idea join the campaign #13thchequeforpensioners. See full statement here.
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PACSA enewsletter inthemedia

No cash for Christmas cheer

It is going to be an expensive Christmas for consumers. Durban counselling agencies and economists have painted a gloomy picture of this festive season as food prices rise, and have urged the “working middle class” to spend cautiously at this time. The prices of food essentials rose more than 2 percent in the past month, according to Mervyn Abrahams, director of the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), who runs a monthly food price barometer.

Inside Labour: For the poor, policy offers little relief

With the usual flurry of comment and analysis, another mini budget has come and gone. But for the majority of workers, whether employed or unemployed, such policy machinations are of little interest because they are too busy trying to survive in an increasingly harsh environment. Inflation for the poor – always much higher than the official cost of living index – has risen steadily and looks likely to rise still further. In the year to the end of September, for example, that staple of poor households, mealie meal, rose in price by more than 32% – a 25kg bag now costs R170.80 more than it did a year ago. According to the food monitor maintained by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action, five “priority foods” bought by poorer households rose in price by an average of 25% over that 12-month period.

Read the full article here published by on 30 October 2016

Health-E News: Fighting for food as costs soar

You know the story. You go to the supermarket and come out with less than expected, having paid more than you had budgeted for. Food inflation has risen rapidly over the past year, fueled by the drought, a weak rand and, some say, market manipulation by retailers. A 25kg bag of maize meal – South Africa’s staple food – has increased by almost a third in the past year, now costing R225, 82. Meanwhile, onions cost 75% more and potatoes 70% more than a year ago. “The prices really get your heart beating. All of the big things have gone up,” a woman told the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA), which monitors the cost of food.

Read the full article here published by Daily Maverick on 24 Oct 2016

Drought, politics, the economy – this is why food prices have sky rocketed

It is becoming increasingly difficult to put food on the tables of lower-income households – basic food now cost 15% more than they did a year ago – and politics, the drought and the economy have been given the blame. According to the 2016 Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action food price barometer annual report, food prices have sky rocketed.

Read the full article here published by City Press on 14 October 2016

Families struggling to afford food as prices soar

Families are either eating less or going into debt as a means to put food on the table. Mervyn Abrahams, director of the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) listed the foods and the increase in price. “Maize meal has increased by 32%, rice by 19%, sugar 28% and cooking oil 22%. Food prices are increasing substantially. The drought has had a major impact together with the fluctuations of the rand/dollar exchange.”  
Listen here to the podcast of the interview on Cape Talk Radio on 14 October 2016

A New Minimum Wage for South Africa

View the eNews Channel Africa report on Nov 22 2016 which quotes PACSA’s household affordability survey in the context of an R3500.00 minimum wage level.

At What Level Should a Minimum Wage Be Set

Listen to a podcast on Morning Talk Live on SAFM radio on the National Minimum Wage in which PACSA’s Mervyn Abrahams was one of the panelists.


Happy Holidays

[1] Data sourced from Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Q2, 2016 & Stats SA Mid-year population estimates, 2016.

[1] Data sourced from Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Q2, 2016 & Stats SA Mid-year population estimates, 2016 & STATS SA General Household Survey 2015, 2016.
[1] The transport costs will be much higher if workers live further from work.
[1] Note that these figures exclude the cost of servicing debt, health care, rent, emergencies, amongst others.
PACSA enewsletter writetous 
170 Hoosen Haffejee Street, 
Pietermaritzburg, 3201
P O Box 2338, Pietermaritzburg,
3200, South Africa