August 25, 2022

Protests hit South Africa over high costs of living, inflation

By Biodun Busari

About 1,000 South African workers have trooped out to the Union Buildings, the seat of government in the capital Pretoria, calling on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to address rising prices and inflation in the country.

South Africa’s economy is still battling the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in which an estimated 2 million jobs were lost, worsening the country’s 35% unemployment rate.

Also, inflation and hike in electricity prices have subjected the people to agony.

The country’s electricity agency, Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom) has applied for an increase in electricity prices despite its failure to provide an uninterrupted power supply for industry and households.

According to BBC, South African Federation Trade Unions (SAFTU) General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi led the protests on Wednesday.

SAFTU berated the ruling party’s government of the African National Congress (ANC) for poor economic conditions.

Vavi addressed the South African people recounting the ordeals of the current economic bites.

“We cannot breathe comrades. We cannot breathe when today it costs more than 4700 rands ($277) to buy food for a family of just four people. No!” Vavi said.

Moalusi Tumane, a school teacher in Palm Ridge, east of Johannesburg, said teachers are negatively hit by the rising cost of living.

“I wish we could continue with the strike action for another three weeks, that is fine. That way they will understand our plight because for them to hear us, we must punish them,” Tumane said.

Also, it has been reported that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also hit South Africa’s economy, with the gas price reaching record highs despite the government’s suspension of an increase in the fuel levy earlier this year.

With South Africa’s inflation now at 7.4%, the rising cost of living has been compounded by rolling power blackouts due to inability of the state-owned power company, Eskom, to generate adequate electricity.

Another school teacher, Linda Gumede, said she can hardly afford to buy basics such as cooking oil due to its high price.

“We cannot stay at the same salary when everything has doubled up. Fish oil (cooking oil) has been tripled-up. How can I buy everything when I have nothing?” she asked.