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The Nelson Mandela Foundation has announced Mandela Day 2015, urging the public to register their actions on www.mandeladay.com.

“Nelson Mandela’s legacy has created the opportunity for us to achieve a bright future,” commented Sello Hatang, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. “Madiba aptly said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

It was Nelson Mandela’s humble humanitarian philosophy and how he sought to live it every day that made him one of the most inspiring leaders in the world - free yourself, free others and serve every day.
Madiba believed that every person has the ability to change the world for the better, no matter how big or small their contribution. In his twilight years, he encouraged all of us to carry his life’s work forward when he famously said: “It is in your hands now …”

In honouring Madiba’s legacy, the Nelson Mandela Foundation asks that you create or join an action on the Mandela Day website, share your story with the world, and help inspire global change. 

The hashtags for Mandela Day are #Time2Serve and #MandelaDay. The website www.mandeladay.com has all the resources you need to choose a meaningful action in memory of Nelson Mandela.

For more about the Nelson Mandela Foundation, refer to www.nelsonmandela.org.

Food Price inflation for working class households up 6.5 percent since January 2015
 
The May 2015 statement provides a snapshot of the trends in food price inflation since January 2015. Over the last five months, the cost of the total Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) food basket increased by 6.5 percent or R101.95 from R1568.25 in January 2015 to R1 670.20 in May 2015. The core drivers of inflation on the PACSA food basket were the starches (increased by 7.8 percent), animal proteins (increased by 7.1 percent), vegetables (increased by 11 percent) and sugar (increased by 8.7 percent). All four of these groups increased by levels significantly higher than Consumer Price Index (CPI) headline inflation – which averaged 4.3 percent over the last five months; as well as above the CPI indicator for food and non-alcoholic beverages, which averaged 5.7 percent over the last five months. 
 
The high levels of inflation on the starchy foods are of concern because households prioritise the purchase of starches before any other category of food. High prices on the starches means that fewer monies are available to secure a diversity of food required for good health and well-being. The impact of this is serious and manifests itself in the inability to resist common illnesses and infections, limits growth and development of particularly children’s muscle and cognitive capacity and means that workers fatigue more quickly and get sick more often. We are further noticing that for a growing number of households; the possibility of securing a diverse variety of foods has long been abandoned because the burden of affordability has become overwhelming. It is for these households for whom starches form almost the entirety of the daily meal, that high inflation on the starches erodes even the ability to secure energy and keep hunger at bay. The price of a 25 kilograms bag of maize meal, the staple food for the majority of South Africans, increased for the fifth consecutive month, to a total of 15 percent or R22.17 between January 2015 and May 2015 from R147.82 to R169.99. The prices of white and brown bread increased by 6.1 percent (an increase of R0.64 per loaf to R11.02) and 5.9 percent (an increase of R0.55 per loaf to R9.92) respectively.
 
The PACSA food basket is made up of 8 different food categories.  The food price inflation on these categories from January 2015 to May 2015 is presented below:
  • Starches: Increased by 7.8 percent (R35.65) from R455.32 to R490.97;
  • Sugar: Increased by 8.7 percent (R8.65) from R99.65 to R108.30;
  • Dry beans, canned beans: Increased by 1.1 percent (R1.09) from R95.77 to R96.86;
  • Fat, oil: Increased by 3.7 percent (R3.52) from R96.12 to R99.64;
  • Milk, maas: Increased by 1.4 percent (R0.74) from R51.73 to R52.47;
  • Meat, eggs, fish: Increased by 7.1 percent (R33.10) from R463.96 to R497.06;
  • Vegetables: Increased by 11 percent (R17.81) from R161.93 to R179.74; and
  • Miscellaneous: Increased by 1 percent (R1.40) from R143.77 to R145.17.

 This increase in the cost of a basket of food has to be considered against the context of a deepening affordability crisis. Most households are under immense financial strain with 86 percent of South Africans in debt. The high levels of indebtedness are being driven by the situation whereby the majority of our workers earning salaries and unemployed caregivers or aged persons receiving grants do not earn enough to support their families. The average minimum wage set across sectoral determinations for 2014 was in the region of just R2362.36 per month - for a household of four people this provides R590.50 per person per month - below the upper bound poverty line of R779 a month. The R10 (3.1 percent) increase on a Child Support Grant and R60 (4.4 percent) increase on an old age pension granted by Treasury in February 2015 has already been overrun by high levels of food price inflation. Public sector workers only received a 7 percent increase in their salaries. The household debt to income ratio means that for every R100 income, R78 goes to repay debt and only R22 is left to buy food, public and municipal services. Our unemployment statistics for the 1st Quarter of 2015 are at 26.3 percent, the highest levels since 2003. The majority of South African households live on wages that are too low to absorb rising increases in food, electricity and transport and therefore remove the possibility of living at a level of basic dignity. That the dreams which shaped the Freedom Charter at Kliptown on 26 June 1955 have not been realised is an indictment for a mother who is now forced into the shame of having to tamper with her electricity because she cannot afford to feed her family or keep them warm.
 
Appendix 1: Notes and References for Table 6

Total household income
 
We have selected 5 total household income scenarios:
 
Household A:  R1 410 = 1 old-age pension (National Treasury, 2014.  Budget Speech: 13).
Household B:  R2 362 = the average minimum wage set by the Employment Conditions Commission across sectoral determinations for 2014 was R2362.36.
Household C:  R3 200 was selected because 60 percent (98 680) of all Pietermaritzburg households earn between zero and R3200 a month (STATSSA, Census 2011).  This total household income figure provides for 1 employed member receiving minimum wages (earning R1200 – R2000 a month, see URL www.mywage.co.za/main/salary/minimum-wages) with the additional income found by unemployed members through alternative and insecure means.
Household D:  R4 660 is the average monthly consumption expenditure for Black South African Households (STATSSA, 2012).
Household E:  R8 000 is where we think the national minimum wage should be located if households are to have the possibility of accessing a basic level of dignity.
 
Burial insurance
 
This figure of R200 presents basic family burial insurance costs for a low-income household registered with insurance companies which serve the low-income market (2014). Burial insurance has been included as an essential and prioritised expense because interviews with households reveal that burial insurance is typically paid before any other expense and very seldom defaulted as a mechanism to ensure food is secured. 
 
Electricity and water
 
The electricity cost is calculated on 350kWh per month. This is the average consumption for low-income households in Pietermaritzburg. We use the prepaid electricity tariff of R1.3301 per kWh because prepaid meters are installed in the homes of low-income households. The 2014/15 rand value is R465.54 per month (excluding transport and time costs of buying tokens). Households on prepaid meters in Pietermaritzburg are excluded from accessing free basic electricity.
 
The water expense is calculated on a fixed monthly charge for a non-metered household.  This is a typical scenario for low-income households living in RDP housing in Pietermaritzburg. The 2014/15 charges on an unmetered water supply is R76.20 per month (includes VAT). The figure in the table is the sum of electricity and water.
 
Transport costs
 
The transport cost is calculated for a household living outside the CBD, given that apartheid geography has not changed and low-income Black African households still live outside the CBD and far from places of work.  It is calculated on 1 kombi trip at R11 or R22 return (Pietermaritzburg kombi charges, July 2014).  The R660 is calculated as follows:
 
20 trips to work [20 X R22 = R440] + 5 trips to town for work/study /shopping/church etc. [5 X R22 = R110] + 1 long distance trip (we use Durban as the destination) [1 X R110].
 
Education
 
This figure has been derived from a focus group, it has its basis in the experience of women with children; it provides the possibility for stationery (± R500 per annum); Carlton paper and toilet paper (R50 once or twice a year); School fees (± R250 once or twice a year); School computer access (± R100 a month); contribution to transport costs.
 
Communication and media
 
This figure is arbitrary; it provides R150 per household per month - for newspapers, airtime, photocopying, etc.
 
Clothing and footwear
 
This figure is arbitrary; it provides roughly R1 000 each for each member in a family of five. The annual figure of R5 000 is divided by 12 months to give R416.66 per household per month. Note that for children, the R1 000 allocated may cover school clothes and shoes for a year but will exclude other clothes worn at home.
 
Domestic and household hygiene products
 
This figure presents the monthly price of personal and domestic hygiene products tracked through PACSA’s barometer. This data and the products tracked were reweighted from October 2014. The new weights are based on conversations held with women, conducted from June-August 2014. Personal hygiene products tracked include:  toilet paper [1ply x 20 rolls], bath soap [200g x 6], toothpaste [100ml x 3], sanitary pads [pack of 10 x 2], Vaseline [250ml x 2], face & body cream [big bottle x2], roll-on [normal x 4], spray deodorant [big sprays x2], shoe polish [100ml x1]. Domestic hygiene products tracked include:  dishwashing liquid [750ml x1], washing powder [2kg x1], green bar soap [bars x4], toilet cleaner [750ml x 1], kitchen cleaner [750ml x1] and jik [750ml x1].
 
Cultural obligations
 
This figure is arbitrary; it provides R350 per month - includes monies for contributions to funerals, weddings, religious and cultural ceremonies, and possible intra and inter family and community financial assistance.
 
About PACSA
 
The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) is a faith-based social justice and development NGO that has been in operation since 1979. PACSA operates in the uMgungundlovu region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and focusses on socio-economic rights, gender justice, youth development, livelihoods and HIV and AIDS. Our work and our practice seek to enhance human dignity. We are convinced that those who carry the brunt of the problem must be a part of the solution - at the heart of PACSA’s core strategy is the notion “nothing about us without us.”
 
For more about Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action, refer to www.pacsa.org.za.

Financial Risk #5

Are you sure who you are paying?

Do you know who you are paying through internet banking?  

The signatories who released payments at one organisation thought they were paying the South African Revenue Services (SARS) - after all, when they looked at the bank account name on their Internet banking system, it read ‘SARS’. However, many months later, they found that they owed SARS a large amount of money; when they asked for an explanation as to how this could be, the bookkeeper disappeared – as had a large amount of the organisation’s money. This happened because, although the payee name showed as ‘SARS’, the account number into which funds were paid was actually a private account linked to the bookkeeper. It is only the account number, and not the name, that is verified by the banks’ systems.

Make sure your payment is reaching the intended party.

With this in mind, how do you currently confirm the bank account details of those you are paying through internet banking? Perhaps you don’t and you simply rely on the bank to verify a bank account number against the payee name? Perhaps you do by using electronic copies of invoices or details sent in an email or referred to in a phone conversation?

In our view, you cannot rely on these methods of ‘confirmation’ to be a sufficient safeguard against fraud.

We advise all our clients to verify;

  • the bank account details of every new beneficiary that they enter onto their Internet banking system; and
  • every change they make to bank account details on their Internet banking system.

This should be done by obtaining original bank documentation from every supplier (such as an original bank statement, a cancelled cheque or an original bank-stamped letter). Why ‘original’ - well, for those that know how, it is not difficult to manipulate/change electronic documents or emails or to give false but convincing details in a telephone conversation. [This even applies when using bank statements drawn from the Internet – ensure that you have original bank statements when reconciling the organisation’s bank balances at each month-end.]

We do see that banks are now beginning to provide an account verification service through internet banking (for which a small charge is made every time it is used) and this may become a more cost-effective way of verifying bank account details. Whether it does or not, now is the time to ensure that all payments are made to bank accounts that have been fully verified - this significantly reduces the risk of payment fraud.

We do hope that you will find this advice helpful and that you will contact us if any of our services would assist you in safeguarding the organisation’s hard-earned financial resources.

For more about CMDS, refer to www.cmds.org.za.
 

Vera Qwesha was not so different from most girls in South Africa, experiencing common struggles, such as peer pressure and various socio-eonomic factors - such as poverty, substance abuse, unemployment and domestic challenges. 

During her teenage years, she experienced a series of trials and tribulations which made her to be an outcast among society.

Lured by seduction and with a skewed fairytale view of love, she was drawn toward the whispers and open arms of the sex industry. Greed consumed her, the money an easy remedy to numb her brokenness. She began a new life with a new name. Settling under the lights of glamorous Johannesburg, she became one of the most sought-after high-class escorts, fielding calls from celebrities, musicians, politicians, and other men with endless supplies of cash.

But the lights weren’t that bright. All that glitters isn’t gold. And it wasn’t long before the dream of getting all she ever wanted became the nightmare that plunged her into the darkest time of her life.

In her debut autobiography, "My Journey: From Grass to Grace", she writes about her long journey of emotional and physical abuse she experienced at the hand of her partner and father of her child. She sustained severe physical injuries that led to her being confined to a wheelchair for three months.

She also relays how her socio-economic factors influenced her to study a degree in political science, with the hope that her active participation in the transformation of the political landscape will change her life and that of her family. She however could not find employment and this led to her deeper problems.

She resorted to a life of drug addition and sex work, with utter loneliness.

The freedom she had once sought, became her prison. Then after attending a church service one morning, drunk, Vera eventually found herself at God's feet. That’s when she finally surrendered to the love of a beckoning Savior.

Through her harrowing accounts in the clutches of the sex industry and the miraculous self-deliverance she experienced in the arms of Jesus, readers will be encouraged knowing this:  No matter how far you have fallen, God loves you and wants to save you from the depths of any pain, trauma, addiction, or abuse. And He longs to give you a new life. Today, Vera is redeemed. Healed. Free. And through her book hopes to help others.

For more refer to www.timomotoso.org.

Facebook page: Vera Qwesha

As we celebrate 39 years since the June 1976 uprising, more needs to be done to ensure that young people are educated, employed and empowered, writes Oliver Meth and Gerard Boyce.

The Class of 1976 changed the course of our history by rising up and leading the vanguard for equal education and racial equality. Like them, young people today are faced with multiple risks. For instance, young people are vulnerable to health risks such as HIV and AIDS. Teenage pregnancy and substance abuse drugs are other major threats whilst rates of depression are increasing. Disappointingly too, racism and discrimination are still rife twenty years after the transition to democracy. Few would dispute, however, that the single greatest threat facing young people today, and by extension the country as a whole, is unemployment.

It was not supposed to be this way. The government vowed to make the reduction of unemployment a priority. Leaders promised six million jobs yet unemployment still increased considerably from three million to 3.4 million during the period 2009 to 2013/2014. Bleak reading though these statistics are, it is not merely a question of numbers. It is about the lives, career aspirations and futures of hundreds of thousands of young people who are eager to embark upon productive and meaningful adult lives but find that they cannot.

Politicians were supposed to partner with young people to address the root causes of the problems that concern them. Instead, they appear to be marginalised from discussing their challenges in decision-making forums and from helping devise solutions thereto. Exclusion only breeds hopelessness. When you’ve repeatedly been promised a better future but are poorly educated, unemployed and foresee little prospect of finding decent work or feel that your voice will not be heard, despair sets in.

Living on the periphery of a society that persists in categorising them according to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity or class, they continue waiting, struggling, crying, hustling, dying and even killing while nursing dreams of a better life, stoking ambitions and grappling with fears as they navigate an uncertain future in a society that reflects the divisions of a previous era and the actions of earlier generations. Consequently, members of the generation in who are vested the greatest hopes of nation-building and transformation still cut their identity in a society not of their own making.

It is widely believed that young people possess vast potential to contribute to their own well-being and that of other South Africans. In order to realise this potential, however, policymakers have to come up with new ideas that are different to the tired promises that politicians are so fond of spouting. 

The first step to coming up with a solution is to identify the nature of the problem: the absence of sustained economic growth and limited job creation. These are essential to reduce poverty and improve living conditions.

Even if this situation were to change, it would be necessary to address the structural constraints imposed by a large, poorly educated, mostly black population who do not possess sufficient social capital to afford access to employment opportunities that would enable them to obtain workplace skills, work experience and permanent placement.

Enhancing access would require the rollout of targeted state interventions. Without these many young people will remain trapped in poverty and be unable to actively contribute to the socio-economic and political changes that are pre-requisites for the transformation of South African society. While government has successfully undertaken several high profile infrastructural projects – South Africa hosted a very successful World Cup in 2010, put a satellite in space, and built a world-class passenger-rail service in the richest province - it has performed less admirably when projects require regular, on-going contact with a large number of end users, in areas like education and skills development for example.

Its performance in these areas could be improved by eradicating nepotism and corruption or appointing skilled people to key positions at local government level for example.  It goes without saying that, for a ruling party that is showing increasing signs of paranoia, about its position in the run up to next year’s municipal elections, doing so is likely to improve its standing among younger members of the electorate.

In conclusion, the situation of young people today is dire. Now, as in 1976, however, young people are still our greatest hope for effecting genuine societal transformation. As we embark on a new period of youth policy development, it is critical that the powers that be bear this in mind when engaging with young change people and devising plans to build their capacity by supporting multiple, diverse and innovative interventions that bridge the gaps between government, civil society and business and ensure deep accountability. For ultimately, securing possibility, affording opportunity and empowering them to act as change agents is the critical task which will define the broader situation of the country as a whole.
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Meth is a Social Advocacy Journalist and Boyce is a Researcher at the University of KwaZulu Natal School of Economics and Finance.

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