Poverty levels in SA result of government failure: Archbishop Ndungane

23 August 2017 - 16:20 By Penwell Dlamini
Njongonkulu Ndungane. File photo.
Njongonkulu Ndungane. File photo.
Image: TMG

Former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane says the high levels of poverty in the country are a result of government’s failure to heed warnings.

Ndungane was reacting to recent figures released by Statistics SA which showed that one out of every two South Africans is poor.

“The explosive revelation that more than half of South Africa's population is poverty stricken is the direct result of government's failure to heed the warnings during the past 20 years by civil society organisations on escalating rates of poverty‚” Ndungane said.

He said figures released on Tuesday should shame the government.

"Regrettably‚ it seems not to do so‚ as I watch Cabinet ministers become more bloated in their endeavours to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary people‚ and scurry around seeking to ensure they achieve success in the upcoming ANC conference elections so that they continue their high-flying lifestyles‚" he said in reference to the upcoming ANC elections at the end of this year.

"In the apartheid years these figures would have caused a national outcry of neglect. The general silence from our leaders is as deafening as it was back then‚" he said.

Statistician general Pali Lehohla released the Poverty Trends in SA between 2006 and 2015 report which painted a very gloomy picture of government’s intervention in tackling poverty levels in the country.

It showed that 17 million social grants are handed out monthly to deal with the poverty epidemic.

The report further revealed that the number of South Africans living in poverty declined between 2006 and 2011 from 66.6% (31.6 million people) to 53.2% (27.3 million people).

This figure‚ however‚ increased to 55.5% (30.4 million) in 2015. The upper-bound poverty level is R992 while the lower-bound poverty line is R647 and the food poverty line is R441.

Black females under the age of 17 remain the most vulnerable to poverty.

The number of South Africans living under the poverty line (less than R441 per month) increased by 2.8 million from 11 million in 2011 to 13.8 million in 2015.

Ndungane questioned the moral compass of the leaders of government when poverty prevails at such levels.

"Our leaders these days seem not to care or even be embarrassed. Earlier this year we had a situation where social grants were almost not paid because of the truculence of a cabinet minister. Now we have this devastating news - and government just watches as our people starve."

Government should "put its money where its mouth is" and supply grants to organised civil society‚ which has in the past shown it has the moral compass‚ ethics and accountability‚ which government lacks‚ to see to the needs of the poor.

"Failure to do so is going to lead to a blow-up in our society which is too terrible to contemplate‚" he warned.