Fighting poverty

2008-07-29 00:00

IT is no secret that the whole world is going through a tough time economically. High and rising food prices and increased fuel prices have hit everybody everywhere. However, Third World countries are especially vulnerable and South Africa, with its exceptionally large percentage of poor people, is no exception. This, in turn, is one of the causative factors underlying crime. It also played its part in bringing about the recent deplorable outbreak of xenophobia. Indeed, the dissatisfaction of the poor at what the government is doing to improve its lot was one of the considerations behind the toppling of President Thabo Mbeki from the ANC leadership at Polokwane in December.

The recent cabinet lekgotla obviously devoted considerable time to economic matters. Addressing a media briefing at the end of it, Mbeki defended his administration’s economic policies, crediting South Africa’s budget surplus and inflation targeting with having “cushioned” the economy from the worst of the turbulence that has caused havoc elsewhere.

His remarks were not music to the ears of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). But even they have welcomed the cabinet decision to launch an anti-poverty campaign and set up a National Food Control Agency to monitor rising prices. How effective such government interventions against poverty will be remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, those citizens who are better resourced are confronted by the poor at every turn. Some choose to do their bit by helping those in need with whom they interact, while others give to one or other charity.

If anyone is in doubt as to which charity to support, they can assist 52 of them simultaneously by giving to the Community Chest. This worthy community organisation has given out R28 million since its inception nearly 50 years ago, R2 million in the past year alone. Moreover, it does so without spending a single cent of donor money on administration. Those costs come out of income which it has generated by its own investments.

In hard times, the calls on the Chest’s generosity are ever increasing. Correspondingly, so too is the need for those in a position to do so, to support it, and other charities, with equal generosity.

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