Anger stews as South African women go hungry to keep their families fed

South African women are concerned about long queues, the lack of public transport and having very little money to feed their families.
South African women are concerned about long queues, the lack of public transport and having very little money to feed their families.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVE

South African women are going to bed hungry so they can keep their children fed during the Covid-19 crisis.

A research report compiled by NGO Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity has unpacked the concerns and fears of women shopping at supermarkets in cities such as Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Johannesburg.

Women in smaller rural towns in KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape were also interviewed.

“Women are worried about the government’s ability to understand their situation and whether there is genuineness to step up and help them.”

The report showed “children are getting hungry, and for every child that is hungry, know that women are even hungrier because women sacrifice their own nutritional needs for their families”.

The NGO’s Mervyn Abrahams said: “Women are telling us that they are buying more Jik, bath soap and green bar soap to try to protect themselves from contracting Covid-19. Women are caught in a Catch-22 situation.

The price of the average food basket has increased between March and April, a research report has found.
The price of the average food basket has increased between March and April, a research report has found.
Image: 123RF/ RICHARD THOMAS

“Most families do not have extra money to spend on extra hygiene products which are now also extra expensive. It means that there is now even less money to buy food.”

According to the report women are concerned that May “is going to be a very hard month”, because of further job losses, the staggered return of workers to employment and the social distancing at supermarkets “restricting their strategy to shop for the cheapest prices across several supermarkets”.

Public transport restrictions are also another concern.

“For many South Africans who don’t have a car, taxis start at around 4am and stop at 10am before starting again in the afternoon.

“For most women who still do their shopping in CBDs, it means that they must finish up their shopping before 10am if they are to catch the last taxi home.

People are hungrier than we think. People are angrier than we think they are.
Mervyn Abrahams

“Missing this taxi means waiting with perishable foods until the afternoon.

“The consequence of these regulations means that everybody rushes to get in a taxi as early as possible – taxis are very full, as are supermarket queues.”

“It also means that women are price takers in supermarkets because the restricted times and long queues mean that women have to buy their entire grocery list in just one supermarket and butchery, and their food baskets are therefore more expensive at the very time when household incomes have dropped.”

The report found that women were also complaining about not being able to access street traders who offer reasonably priced vegetables, fruit, eggs, domestic and personal hygiene products.

The NGO conducts a regular analysis of what the basic food basket costs.

According to the report, the cost of the household food basket has increased by R252,75 from R3,221 on March 2 to R3,473 on April 23.

“The food driving increases in the food baskets are mainly essential staples like rice, cake flour, cooking oil, white sugar, sugar beans, onions, eggs and cabbage.”

Abrahams said the majority of South Africans “were in a very bad situation prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown”.

“People are hungrier than we think. People are angrier than we think they are.”


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