Tightening belts: Buying food is a daily struggle

2013-05-19 10:00

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‘We don’t know what we are going to eat tonight. Every day is a struggle,” says Nomantombi Juta (52), a single mother of three who lives in the Duncan Village informal settlement outside East London.

“Last night, we made home-baked bread, cooked cabbage and potatoes,” she says.

“Life is tough for me and my three sons. One of them went to Cape Town three years ago to look for work, but has made no contact ever since.”

Juta came from Mqanduli in the former Transkei to East London, hoping for a job and a better life.

But now she and her remaining sons Viwe (23) and Samkelo (19) eke out a living selling sheep heads to others in the settlement.

“We buy what we can afford. Maybe 5kg of rice today, another of samp and beans the next day, and so on,” she says.

They spend about R500 a month on food, including maize meal, rice, cooking oil, sugar, samp, sugar beans, eggs, flour and tea.

When City Press visited them last week, the cupboard in their makeshift kitchen contained only cabbage, onions and salt.

“We don’t know what we will eat today,” says Juta, in her two-roomed shack where the holes in the walls are stuffed with newspaper to prevent the cold wind from blowing in.

Juta earns between R80 and R100 a day selling sheep heads, a popular local dish.

On a good day, she makes about R150.

She and her sons cook the sheep heads on a fire outside their home to save electricity.

They spend R50 a month on electricity, which they use mainly for lighting.

When that is finished, they use candles until they can raise enough cash to buy more power.

The only other electrical appliances they own are an iron and a two-plate stove.

Most of their income is spent on food, mainly at their local Boxer Superstores branch.

They cannot even consider buying clothes. Juta is concerned the cost of living is spiralling out of control.

“Every day, prices go up. You get frustrated when you go to the shops to buy bread, only to be told the price of bread is up by 20c or something,” says Juta.

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