Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - Thousands of people took to the streets of Pretoria on August 24 to protest against the worsening economic conditions. The protest was organized by the eight unions, which called for government intervention on high levels of unemployment, rising poverty and the rising cost of living.
Inflation has soared around the world, fueled by supply chain disruptions following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, as well as rising energy and food prices following Russia's war against Ukraine.
According to a World Bank report, some 30.3 million South Africans live in poverty, while 13.8 million people face food shortages that have been exacerbated by rising food prices due to the invasion of Ukraine. The situation is aggravated by the continuous blackouts of electricity due to the poor service offered by the national electricity company.
A situation that was at the center of a statement by the South African Bishops published on August 8 in which the Prelates express concern "about the high levels of unemployment and the cost of living that are pushing more people into higher levels of household debt and deep poverty".
The Bishops remind politicians of their responsibilities noting that "it is sad that the focus of our political leaders remains fixed on narrow vested interests and not on issues important to ordinary citizens, particularly the homeless, the unemployed, and the hungry".
"We strongly denounce the continued preoccupation of our leaders with self-enrichment, party politics and factional battles at a time when the majority in this country are struggling to make ends meet".
The Bishops address a heartfelt appeal to the government "to initiate more, robust measures to address the fuel and food price hike" and also to address economic disparities "that impose great risk to the country's economic growth and national security, creating conditions that could fuel violent unrest and social instability".
"Of particular concern to us is the vast disparities between the rural and urban economies, which have resulted in the exclusion of the rural poor from equal and significant participation in the country's economy", they underline. "Young rural youth find it hard to find jobs when the building of rural economies is grounded solely on mining, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors, which are characterised by increased automation and an exploitative labour system". For this reason the Bishops call on "the government to invest more in building thriving and self-sustaining rural economies, including self-sustaining village economies, that generate massive job creation for the rural youth, including those classified as skilled labour". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 26/8/2022)