Economists and business analysts gave Finance Minister Godongwana’s mid-term budget speech mostly strong marks for holding the line on spending and prioritising deficit reduction. Meaning that civil society was rather unimpressed with what some might call continued austerity measures. While calling the budget “pro-poor.” Organisations such as the Black Sash could find little evidence for this claim. Godongwana has not budgeted for extension of R350 social relief of distress grant beyond March 2022, and expressed no indication of support for a basic income grant, stressing job creation instead. Goddongwana added that a decision about government's interventions to expand the "social security net" would be provided in the February 2022 Budget.
South Africa’s local elections saw a record low turnout, as only about 26% of eligible voters cast a ballot. While it is easy to explain away these numbers as the result of voter apathy, in fact, this apathy seems to have a structure and perhaps even a message.
The overall support for the major parties was down, especially for the ANC. Smaller parties however, were not able to translate the ANC’s waning support into votes of their own. Instead, it is thought that many longtime supporters of the ANC and DA didn’t vote at all, instead of throwing their support to someone else. Analysts point to low levels of voter trust and “deepening socioeconomic misery.” The youth in particular see decreasing value in participation in politics. In short, after years of failed service delivery, poor schools, load shedding, failing infrastructure, high crime, etc…voters simply stayed home in droves.
The steep November fuel price increase is not only expensive for motorists. They hit everyone hard, but especially the poor, as the price of fuel directly affects the cost of basic necessities such as food, utilities, clothing and commuting.
Over the last 10 years, petrol prices have increased by 81%. Surprisingly though, the price of crude oil is 30% less than a decade ago. In fact, the weakening Rand and increasing taxes and levies have been the drivers behind this trend.
Ten years ago the rand/dollar exchange rate hovered around R8 to the USD. If we had the same rate today, the current petrol price would be instead around R16.00 per litre, meaning the price of the weakened currency is approximately R3.50 per litre. Meanwhile, taxes and levies have risen a whopping 126% over that same period, so that now roughly 50% of the price of a litre of petrol is added tax.
This is, by definition, an extremely regressive tax, one that has a far greater impact on those who can least afford it.
Apart from the obvious economic impacts of continued load shedding, there are growing concerns for matriculants who are currently writing their exams. The Department of Basic Education insists however, that load shedding is not an issue as natural light is available when students write their papers. But a matric pupils point out that studying is a challenge at night during the blackouts when they must rely on candles or torches, and using the internet is nearly impossible.
Addressing the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, DA MP Désirée van der Walt said, “Load shedding is an immediate threat to the 2021 NSC examinations and to matric students.” She said that “not all schools are built in such a way” that allow for sufficient daylight to illuminate exam venues.
Eskom has warned in a summer load shedding forecast for 2021/2022 that its system is likely to remain severely constrained for the near future.