A Poor Problem

Jun 01, 11 A Poor Problem

Posted by in Economics

When considering the previous post on South Africa’s problem with poverty, it is important to bear in mind that this war not only manifests in the form of police brutality, but in other, more ‘passive aggressive’ ways as well. It seems that in South Africa a poor person, by virtue of being poor- gives up many rights that most of us take for granted. Drive along any major road in Gauteng, and you’re bound to come across the poor souls in various stages of decomposition, with hands outstretched. In many cases a baby will be strapped to Mommy’s back. One might be forgiven for thinking ‘what possessed her to have children?’ Regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception, and if we’re all honest with ourselves, many a ‘knee-jerk-thought’ has centred on this very theme. Being poor, excludes one from having the right to bear children. On a more official and less subjective level though, the use of what’s known as the “Means Test” is a popular way for the government to decide which lucky poor person gets to live off their various Social Grants. In order for poor people to access these grants, they must be deemed deserving. Enter the “Means Test”. To prove that they are indeed as pathetically poor as they claim to be, applicants are subject to invasive interrogation and investigation. Thus, the poor are also not afforded the right to privacy or dignity for that matter. I’m sure this does wonders for their self esteem. The catch phrase “poor services for poor people’, is indicative of South Africa’s attitude to the poor. Pop in to any government institution involved with providing for the poor and you’ll find that they are generally inefficient and lacking basic infrastructure. People wait for hours, sometimes in heat or pouring rain to collect grants. Fetching chronic medicine from a government clinic or hospital can take an entire work day- if you’re lucky. Being poor means you are at the mercy of others. If you’re not paying...

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Hey, how about some music from the 21st Century?’

Mar 01, 11 Hey, how about some music from the 21st Century?’

Posted by in News & Media

Recently we were lucky enough to be graced by the presence of the omnipotent Bono and his equally illustrious gang collectively known as U2. For weeks radio stations were abuzz with U2 fever, and in good ol’ Bono fashion, we were bedazzled by his political insights and obvious agenda. It’s so refreshing when ‘Pop Stars”, give us their two cents on politics that have little to do with them. I suppose we knew the risks when we invited U2 to visit our shores. The U2 concert was a resounding success, replete with parades and the latest must-have accessory “The Guest Politician”. The overwhelming impression, was that those that attended felt that not only did they get their money’s worth, but also bonded with their fellow man. I’m sure lighters, I mean cell phones, were held aloft while gently swaying from side to side. The Highveld breakfast show hosted by the aptly named “Whackhead Simpson’, was awash in starry-eyed accounts the following morning. One would be forgiven for thinking that they’d missed out had they not forked out the R300.00 needed to buy this once and life time experience. But-have no fear! I have no doubt that in another few years when the U2 coiffeurs are looking a bit skinny, they’ll be back with yet another once in a lifetime experience. I may be accused of being a crotchety old cynic, but if we settle for less that’s all we get. Less. It’s probably a running joke with performers and bands alike that when they’ve milked the Western World, they might squeeze in a visit to the dark and beguiling continent of Africa. But only when everyone else gets sick of them and they have retirement to think of. Bands like Alpha Ville, A-Ha and Crowded House have also recently paid us a visit (a mere twenty years too late.) Let’s not forget Sir Elton John who also recently visited us for the first time (Or so he says when we all know that he...

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One Love

A great anti-abortionist once wrote, ‘when I die, I am deprived of all of the value of my future’ ( Don Marquis, 1989). This got me thinking that maybe, death or rather premature death is disliked by humans for the mere fact that it denies them a future. And as most humans plan for the future, the prospect of not having one is indeed frightening. P.D James’s book ‘The Children of Men’, goes a step further by proposing that the only thing worse than being denied a future is not being able to leave a legacy. Often this comes in the form of children. His book describes a world where there is anarchy, violence and despair, due to humankind having lost the ability to reproduce. A world without a future generation is therefore a world without hope. A world, in some respects, reminiscent of South Africa. A couple sit on a couch watching a small child on television. The woman longingly states that she wishes she could have a child. The man then reveals that she, or he or both have HIV. However he qualifies this by revealing that he knows a way in which the two can still have an HIV free baby. This advert is part of a campaign called, “One Love’. And is a very interesting indicator of how South Africa is being told to view the consequences of this virus which has ravaged our nation. When campaigns like “One Love” are launched giving Aids sufferers the hope that they might have healthy children- it is providing the solution to the problem addressed by P.D James. That in order to maintain a workable society, i.e. one without anarchy and violence, humans must have the sense that they have futures or they at least have the opportunity to leave a legacy. We have seen, thanks to the consequences of the Mbeki era, that the alternative – to deny health care to HIV sufferers as well as ARV’s to pregnant women – creates...

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English: A sought-after commodity

Year after year, graduates from English speaking nations across the globe are lured to far flung Eastern and Middle Eastern locales. On offer: approximately R25 000 a month, including ( in some cases) flights and accommodation. In return, the successful applicants are required to teach young children, teenagers, as well as adults, the English language. Quite literally, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the earning capacity of the native English speaker, because the English language is prized, appreciated and held as a key component to professional success the world over. Currently, the South African education system is under intense and deserved scrutiny. Along with many other government-controlled sectors, it is in crisis. This could not be more evident than when interacting with second language English speakers. People in China, Japan and Saudi Arabia are more articulate – in some cases most have had no exposure to English till their teens or even adulthood. South Africa’s primary language of communication is English and tragically many, if not most, South Africans cannot express themselves adequately. Even Zimbabwean Nationals – who have fled persecution and limited economic prospects – have a better grasp of the language. If a mad-man dictator with an appalling human rights record can manage to educate his masses, why cant we? Surely this is a travesty? Being unable to express oneself can have a ripple effect into all aspects of life. For example, most doctors in South Africa use English as their primary mode of communication. Thus a patient who cannot understand their dosage instructions – or even what their exact health status is – is at risk of irreparable physical damage, if not death. Many South Africans find their earning power affected as most jobs require an adequate, if not superior, grasp of English. The result being many employment opportunities are given to those who can speak English – like Zimbabweans. As we have seen, this often leads to social ills characterised by resentment and xenophobia. The average South African has...

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