Super-poor families hope for a miracle

While Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech on Wednesday was hailed by business and some politicians as well balanced, it offered little comfort to Rose Selemela, who survives on social grants.

Selemela – whose family of four lives on the R560 in child support grants she receives for her two children, Koketso (12) and Bophelo (5) – is one of the 16.5 million South Africans who depend on social grants for survival.

The increase of the child grant to R290 in April and R300 in October means nothing to Selemela, who pays R500 a month for her children’s school transport.

“R580 is deposited into the account, but by the time I get it, it’s about R550 as a result of bank charges. It’s very difficult. We survive by God’s grace.

“I don’t like talking about this because it hurts me a lot. This money is really just enough for the kids’ transport to school. I just hope for miracles and I just wish I could get a job,” she says.

Selemela, whose husband, a meter-taxi driver, died in 2011, switched off her refrigerator because it was empty. The food cupboard, bread tin and sugar container were also bare when City Press visited.

“We don’t buy groceries because R580 is just too little for four people. After paying for the kids’ transport, I use the rest to buy mealiemeal,” she said. “Things could be a little better if the government increased the grants to at least R400.”

Selemela and her three children, who live in a four-roomed RDP house in Seshego, receive subsidised electricity from the Polokwane municipality.

Most of their food comes from hand-outs from friends and their church.

However, following the announcement of an 8% power price hike for the next five years, things are set to get worse for them.

“I try to buy electricity for R100 every month and normally it lasts for three weeks. But with the most recent increase, it remains to be seen if we will be able to cope.”

Dr Dick Forslund, economist and researcher at the Alternative Information and Development Centre, says the R20 increase in the child support grant was far below the official inflation rate of 5.5%.

“The working class and the poor spend most of their money on food, transport and electricity. According to Stats SA, official inflation is at 5.5%,but the official inflation rate doesn’t reflect the price increases afflicting the poor and the working class.

“Inflation for the poor and working class is 6.9%. This means that their money will buy fewer eggs, less mealiemeal, less electricity.”

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