The nineth annual Maritzburg Social Justice Film and Arts Festival, hosted by PACSA in collaboration with the University OF KwaZulu Natal, Alan Paton Centre and Struggle archives, The Witness, Gay and Lesbian Network, KZN Language Institute, Speak through art, Groundwork and AFRA (Association for Rural Advancement) from 27th-29th September.
PACSA (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action) is an independent, faith-based NGO that has worked to achieve social and economic justice in the uMgungundlovu District in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, for over 30 years. It facilitates development processes with local community partner organisations at their request, and accompanies them over time as they seek to achieve community development as well as influence structural change.
On the 1st of April 2018, despite massive resistance, government went ahead and increased the VAT rate to 15%. We have argued in the past that increasing the VAT rate on food was unwise. This media statement using our April 2018 data looks at the month-on-month impact of the VAT hike for households living on low incomes. It is a snap shot as the effect of the VAT hike will take time to run through the value chains however already it signals some worrying trends. Foods subject to VAT make up 54% of the total cost of the PACSA Food Basket. The statement finds that the increase in VAT by 1% resulted in a 6.5% increase in the total VAT levied on the foods subject to VAT on the PACSA Food Basket, moving the total VAT payable to R221.59. The PACSA Food Basket has now reached its highest level of R3 144.02. It has increased by 9% over the past eight months. Hiking the VAT rate has made the affordability crisis deeper and will have a considerable negative impact on households living on low incomes, who are already in a very severe crisis. We call for food to be made a public good; to remove all VAT from food; to increase wages to those of a living wage and to regulate food prices.
The PACSA Food Price Barometer is an indicator of food price inflation on the baskets of low-income households. It shows the impact of food price inflation for low-income urban households in Pietermaritzburg but is able to express a picture of what is happening in low-income homes across South Africa. Because of the way women living on low incomes allocate their expenditures: food prices cannot be analysed outside the economy; nor can the economy be analysed outside the foods in our trolleys and on our plates. The Barometer is a useful instrument to measure the state’s political choices and economic performance. It finds that households living on low incomes are coming under enormous pressure as the crisis in our economy deepens and many of the buffers and instruments to mitigate the impact of the crisis are not available. Read more..
The January 2018 PACSA Food Price Barometer shows the inadequacy of the value of the Child Support Grant to support households to provide a basic but nutritionally complete monthly diet for a boy/girl child between the ages of 10-13 years. The inadequacy of the Child Support Grant [CSG] (totaling R380 per month or R12.67 per day) is starkly revealed when we compare it to Statistics South Africa’s inflation adjusted Food Poverty Line of R531 per capita per month (R17.70 per day, which means the CSG of R12.67 per day is R5.03 per day below the food poverty line); and the actual January 2018 cost of securing a basic but nutritionally complete monthly diet for a boy/girl child between the ages of 10-13 years (R588.45 per month or R19.62 per day). If we compare January’s daily costs of R19.62 to the daily value of the CSG of R12.67; it means an under spend of more than a third (35%) of nutritional food on the plates of around 12.1 million children and therefore a direct undermining of children’s health, growth and development and our future education, health, social and economic outcomes. See the January 2018 Food Price Barometer
In the Democratic South Africa, Farm workers are still subjected to undignified treatment, even when deceased. During December 2017 PACSA staff was called upon to stand in solidarity with a farm-worker family in the Crammond area of the province who was denied a peaceful, dignified burial on the farm where they have lived and worked for many years.This highlights the vulnerability of farm-workers and the precarious conditions that constitutes their experience in the uMgumgundlovu areas. The Farmer is still in custody and the case is ongoing. This incident highlights the importance of land in post-apartheid SA; the importance of worker organisation and continued struggle for dignity, even in a democratic context. See here for media articles on this incident.
PACSA’s Mervyn Abrahams was the guest speaker at the launch of the book Faith and Migration in Pietermaritzburg in December 2017. In the book, edited by Prof Philippe Denis, a Dominican brother and professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, 24 writers reflect on the spiritual and theological imperatives that should guide Christians and people of faith to recognize migrants as a sister or brother who collaborate towards improving their new home.While migration is not a new phenomenon, it is part of human history; the recent waves of migration must challenge us to reflect critically on the social, economic and political drivers of this global migration. This new wave of migration also raises numerous questions around the idea of globalization of finance and goods and services but not people; whether large-scale migration of the kind we saw over the past few years questions the viability of the nation-state to respond adequately to such mass movements of people; whether theology, as a discipline, is not better suited to provide policy options rather than the dominant narratives emerging from economics and politics which constantly paints the migrant as a ‘other’ which places a burden on local resources. For a media report on the launch see here
In January 2018 two new staff members joined
the PACSA team. They are Mandla Gcwabasa, a process facilitator in the
practice team, and Marcel Lee who took on the position as PA to the
Mandla Gcwabasa was born in SOBANTU village Pietermaritzburg (KZN)
and has collaborated with of PACSA for many years. In his childhood days
organizing and resisting apartheid laws was the order of the day in
Sobantu and this community actions has shaped Mandla’s outlook on life.
In 2010 he, (together with some friends) founded SAKH’BUNTU Youth
Organization, a community based organization focusing on organizing
young people towards community actions and for education for a true form
of liberation. Mandla is also amongst the founding members of the
Electricity Action Group (EAG) a grassroots movement that campaigns for
access to and affordable electricity in the Msunduzi Municipality on the
basis of dignity. Mandla says: “In January 2018 I joined PACSA to serve
and am excited to work together with the PACSA team to support people
who are organizing on the basis of dignity and universality to improve
their daily lives and those of others in their communities. My work at
PACSA is about seeking to create a just society where every-one
experiences their lives as meaningful and dignified.”
Marcel Lee was born in Port Elizabeth and studied Secretarial
Studies at the Port Elizabeth Technicon. She married in 1987 (now
divorced) and moved to Pietermaritzburg with her then husband. She
started her secretarial career with the KZN Government the same year.
She worked her way up to Senior Secretary and has worked as Private
Secretary of MECs (representing the majority of our countries political
parties). She also served as the Parliamentary Officer for the KZN
Agricultural Department and the Private Secretary to one of our
Provinces’ Premiers. Marcel sees her work in PACSA as to serve our
Province’s people and help them improve their daily lives with the
dignity we all deserve.
On the 1st of February PACSA’s Research and Advocacy Coordinator, Julie Smith, made a presentation at a learning space for dieticians and nutritionists working in the public health care sector and in private practice in the Western Cape. PACSA was invited to talk through its Food Price Barometer work. We shared an affordability framework which we have found useful to better understand and contextualize the reality faced by millions of South African families and the struggles to put good quality nutritious food on the table. The framework positions the problems on our plates as originating in the economy. These problems are caused by the types of political choices being made by the state and how our economy is structured and performing. The presentation took the health care workers through a series of statistical slides which showed how the racial structure of our labour market and economy means that South Africa’s low and racialized baseline wage regime has not been transformed whilst unemployment levels for Black South Africans has stagnated at extremely high levels. South Africa is not creating jobs and the jobs that we do have pay workers poverty wages. This context means that Black South African households have been under severe financial pressure for a prolonged period of time and that the financial buffers to absorb shocks have either already been eroded or are close to being eroded. This affordability crisis has crashed onto the family plate. Women are forced to prioritize their expenditures, including food purchases. Women prioritize foods that fill bellies, allow meals to be cooked and for palatability. It means that diets are extremely deficient in dietary diversity – being very low in protein, vegetables, calcium, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Women don’t choose this for their families; most women have a very good basic understanding of nutrition – they are forced to eat like this given affordability constraints. The affordability crisis has massive implications for health: women are bearing the brunt of the crisis and are getting very sick. Children are presenting with more severe and prolonged common childhood illnesses which should be resisted through a proper plate of food. The framework identified that all of problems of the economy invariably end up in the public health care sector. For PACSA the economy is at the heart of the issue. There appear to be no current useful ideas about dealing with the massive unemployment crisis at the level of the state. The two major instruments which could assist to buffer the storm in the short-term are the wage and the social grant. Neither of these two instruments is being used. PACSA’s focus is on shifting the low-baseline wage to the level of a living wage and increasing the Child Support Grant to a level where mothers can feed their children properly – there can be no future with poverty level wages and grants set below the food poverty line. Longer term we would need to re-imagine and restructure the economy. We encouraged dieticians and nutritionists to raise the alarm about what they are seeing in the public clinics and hospitals; to support campaigns to increase the Child Support Grant; and if nothing else – to listen to women. Women are carrying the crisis of the economy with virtually no support and even less understanding. Women are trying. If we can just listen and try and understand the context in which women are struggling.
26 participants from 12 countries gathered for a 4 day consultation hosted by PACSA and AGEH, a German Association for Development Cooperation, in Paarl, outside Cape Town, to re-think development as liberation and to promote an alliance of international faith based and Church related organizations promoting exchange of volunteers as an expression of human solidarity.In welcoming the participants to the consultation, Michael Steeb (AGEH) and Mervyn Abrahams (PACSA) expressed the hope that the consultation will spark new ideas and possible action for a renewed effort in working towards the global common good. This is particularly critical due to the global crisis we face. The global situation could be outlined as: • An extremely dangerous climate change and the destruction of our vital resources to a degree unparalleled in the history of humankind • A collapse of social structures and states, leading to upheaval, war and loss of human security • A continued weakening – or even collapse – of international cooperation and institutions and a deliberate weakening of the UN and its sub-organisations, as well as the undermining of international agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement • A technological shift and digitisation which, while also offering opportunities, harbours incalculable risks for people in its fusion of man and machine We cannot be indifferent to what is currently happening in and to “our common home” and those who live there. In response to these crises we have to re-think social, economic and political relationships: • Rather than development – Liberation – liberation of the entire person • It is about creating relationships of reciprocity that advances dignity • It is supporting those on the periphery of power and access to claim their power to think, speak, plan, and act as human persons with dignity. • Not poverty – which stigmatizes the victim – but the relationality between wealth and poverty and who has power The discussions stressed the importance of people’s agency in resolving local problems while simultaneously challenging and resisting the technological paradigm that de-humanises liberatory processes. Identifying where people are struggling for a better world for themselves and others could assist in us connecting to these struggles. In this context the human act of volunteering as a service to the world could become an important expression of human solidarity and create encounters between people as well as connection between the global south and the global north. The consultation afforded PACSA the opportunity to make important connections at a global level and the possibility for further common action on an agenda shaped by a global common good in the interest of people, especially the poor, and the global environment. The consultation adopted the statement by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si that the cry of the poor is interconnected to the cry of the earth. See Laudato Si